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BY THE SAME AUTHOR
"In Tbt Shining Heights' Miss
Wylie has given her readera not
merely the best novel she has
ever written, but also a war novel
of genuine distinction."
Goikf $1.50 net
I. A. R. WYLIE
"iBE SHININO HEIGHTS,"
"the daughter OV BRAHMA,"
JOHN LANE COMPANY
By CURTIS PUBLISHING COMPANY
Bt JOHN LANE COMPANY
J. J. littk ft Ivci Comptnj
New Yofk. U. S. A.
He awoke violently. In the very midst of his dream
he had been shot out of a cannon's mouth straight into
consciousness. Yet for a moment he could not re-
member where he was. He seemed to be clinging to
the outer edge of a monster wheel which whirled him
through darkness till his brain went sick and giddy.
Half-remembered landmarks flew past him. He
clutched at them, trying to stay his mad flight. But
they slipped through his fingers. The pace was at
first too frightful — ^his clutch too feeble. But gradu-
ally the wheel began to revolve more quietly. The
landmarks settled in their accustomed places. He
clung to one of them — it was the big majolica stove
just opposite — and this time his grip held. The wheel
jerked and came to a standstill and there was the
Herr Amtschreiber Felde in his plush covered chair
and the grey early morning light peering at him
through the cracks in the closed shutters.
He did not move at first His body ached all over,
but he was glad to sit quiet Although it was still
8 TOWARDS MORNING
too dark to see anjrthing clearly, it made him feel more
secure to recognise the dim outline of familiar ob-
jects — ^the table in the middle of the room, the four
chairs drawn up stiffly in place, the plush covered sofa
with the carved wooden back, the Venetian mirror
shining like a polished shield on the opposite wall, the
big majolica stove
It was the stove which held his attention longest
It explained his dream and he always liked to have
things explained. As soon as he had found a natural
cause for it, the dream did not trouble him so much.
Yet it had been rather terrible. Even now the memory
of it held a queer, uncanny fascination. Without
being terrified any more, he could still understand why
he had been afraid. It had been an unusual dream
in so far that nothing had really happened in it He
had been sitting in his chair, close to the warmth,
drowsy with fatigue and worry and excitement, and
then suddenly he found himself in an empty plain.
He was quite alone, but afar off against the horizon
loomed a Shape so black and huge that it shut out
the light of the sun. Its one red eye watched the
Herr Amtschreiber. It brightened and grew dim and
brightened again, but it never let go of him. And
he sat there, pimy and cowering and stark naked and
waited. He was not surprised that in spite of his
puniness the eye should be so intent upon him. He
had a dim but profound knowledge that they were vital
to one another — ^that if the eye closed he himself
would go out into nothingness and that if he could
have turned away his gaze the eye would be extin-
guished for ever. But he did not want to turn away.
That was the odd part of it Though he knew quite
well that the eye would kill him in the end, he was
TOWARDS MORNING 9
fascinated — intoxicated. He felt that in a minute
he would jump up and dance and scream and yell
unknown blasphemies till he dropped — dead.
He, the respectable, respected Herr Amtschreiber
felt that he was going to dance — ^stark naked — and
scream and yell blasphemies. But then mercifully he
had wakened just in time. And there he was, in
his plush arm-chair, stiff and aching from the em-
brace of the carved wooden arms, but fully clad, and
not even knowing what the blasphemies would have
It was nothing but the stove after all. He remem-
bered now that he had gone to sleep staring at the
fire glowing fiercely behind the glass covered door.
He had sat too close — far too close — and the heat
had given him nightmare. Now the fire was almost
out It had a sullen, dying look and the atmosphere
of the room was dank and stuffy.
The door opened. A woman came shuffling softly
over the parquet flooring and loomed up at the Herr
Amtschreiber's side. She carried a fimnel-shaped coal
scuttle and opening the slot of the stove jerked in
the coal with an angry rattle.
The Herr Amtschrieber stirred and stretched him-
"Has the Herr slept well?" she asked with a sing-
ing South German intonation.
"Na — es geht" He got up and limped painfully
about the room. He had a bad taste in his mouth
and his eyes were heavy and sore with unrestf ul sleep.
The woman came over to the window and threw open
the shutters and the light snatched the misty grey
covers from the furniture and left it stark and blealv
in its ugliness. The Herr Amtschreiber stood before
JO TOWARDS MORNING
the Venetian glass and peered anxiously over his spec-
tacles at the reflection of a little man with a small
pale face and a fair straggling moustache and round
blue eyts. The eyes were yoimg, but the face was
middle-aged and faded. The Herr Amtschreiber
sighed. He jacked the chocolate-coloured coat higher
up on to the sloping shoulders and wriggled his legs
in the baggy trousers. The shot-silk tie had worked
up under one ear. He tied it carefully and fastened
the low collar and smoothed his thin fair hair. 'Wa
— es geht schon," he repeated sleepily.
The servant came back carrying a round tray with
a white china coffee pot and a plate of rusks which
she set down at the head of the table. She was tall and
broadly built. Her body showed soft rounded lines
under the dark cotton dress, but her bare arms were
strong and hard as a man's. Her eyes were deeply
shadowed and sad and beautiful and stupid as the
eyes of a patient, over-burdened animal.
"The breakfast is there, Herr Felde."
He grunted and came and sat down. He dipped
a rusk into the coffee and began to eat nervously.
Every now and then he stopped crunching to listen,
his head a little on one side, his brows knitted.
"Is — ^is it all right, Anna ?*'
"Oh, yes, yes, Herr Felde. The Sister says she
has been asleep. She is asleep now. It will all go
"Yes — of course. I mustn't disturb her. I have
got to be at the Bureau early this morning. The
Grand Duke is to open the new wing. I ought to
be gone now. Bring me my hat and coat. Good God
—what is it?"
He had leapt to his feet as though the cry from
TOWARDS MORNING ii
behind the closed double doors had been the sting
of a serpent. It was a terrible cry — ^not loud — ^but
pressed down and running over with agony. It was
the cry of some one unsuspecting who has opened
a door and looked down suddenly into a pit of horror.
The Herr Amtschreiber stood trembling with clasped
hands, his mouth gaping. "What is it — ^what is it?"
he repeated helplessly.
The servant Anna looked at him. She too was pale,
but also she was smiling. The smile had some strange
kinship with the cry that came creeping up to them
through the stillness in low, advancing waves. It
was world old. It lit the patient, stupid face with an
"The Herr Amtschreiber shouldn't worry. It is
just beginning — that is all. It must be gone through.
It is always so."
"Always? It is impossible. Dear God in heaven,
how do you know?"
"It is always so," she repeated stolidly. "My
mother had ten children. I was the fourth. Six times
have I heard my mother cry like that"
He was walking up and down the room — almost
running — like some distraught hunted little animal —
with the vibrating, deepening cry at his heels.
"Ten times! Ten times! It's incredible. Intol-
erable. Why isn't the doctor here? Has the man no
conscience. Doesn't he think he'll get his fees ? Anna
— how long — ^how long can that go on?"
"It depends." She gathered the breakfast things
together. "Some have it more easily than others.
The Frau Amtschreiber is not so young."
He stood still suddenly, close to the double door, his
soft felt hat squeezed between his nervous bony hands.
12 TOWARDS MORNING
The round blue eyes peered blindly over the crooked
"No — ^no — ^we are not young, either of us. Is that
our fault ? One can't be reckless. One must do things
decently — in order — standes gemasz — ^a Grand Ducal
Official can't marry anyhow — can he? One must
wait. But I didn't know — I thought — ^nature oughtn't
to punish people — for doing things decently — ^Anna —
if I could see her for a minute "
"The Herr Amtschreiber will be late "
"Late? Yes — ^and — dear God in heaven — His
Royal Highness is visiting the Rathaus himself. Some
of us will get an Order. If only I But my Bu-
reau-Chef doesn't like me. I don't know why. I have
always done my best. One must be careful. It
wouldn't do to be late. Anna — if anything — ^anything
happened you must come at once."
She helped him into his overcoat and brought him
out into the dark stuffy passage. The cry had be-
come a whimper. It had lost dignity. The revolt and
passion had gone out of it. It was the pitiful, ex-
hausted protest of a spirit already broken.
The Herr Amtschreiber shook his head
"It isn't right— it isn't right."
"It will go well," Anna said soothingly. "The Herr
Amtschreiber will see — it will go well."
Though he was so late he lingered for a long min-
ute outside the massive, grey-faced house. He felt
dazed and battered and sore. It was as though he
had run away out of a terrible battle. He was amazed
that everything in the street was just as usual. He
looked at a little boy in his blue overall, his satchel
strapped to his shoulders like a knapsack — so grave
and earnest and anxious. He looked at the big in-
TOWARDS MORNING 13
fantry soldier coming along with his clumsy and ef-
fective swagger and he felt that he saw them for the
first time. He was amazed that he had never realised
them before. They were stages in one development —
imd the first stage of all was the sound of a woman
crying. They meant fear and remorse and pain.
He saw how terrible they were.
He looked up at the window in the top storey of
the big house.
"It wasn't like her to cry like that — she never cried
like that before."
Then he remembered how late he was. He walked
fast but with dignity till he came to a side street and
then he began to run.
He was not used to it His lungs ached and his
knees shook under him. And he was ashamed. He
felt red with shame right to his very soul. He knew
that Gross-herzogliche Staatsbeamten never ran. Nor
were they ever late. They were always at their post,
weaving their little pattern into the vast national de-
sign with absolute efficiency and dignity, without haste
or disorder. Now he was late and running — ^and run-
ning absurdly — a sort of shambling trot* his face very
red, his glasses jogging on the bridge of his nose.
A vague, unhappy anger ran through his shame.
He did not know with whom or with what he was
angry. It had something to do with Clafchen and that
terrible crying. Either she shouldn't have had to cry
like that or he shouldn't have had to run. There was
something wrong about it alL It did not belong to
14 TOWARDS MORNING
the neat scheme of his life. It was as though a maniac
had burst into his office at the Stadtamt and thrown
all his papers out of the window. He wanted to cry,
too. The tears made the rims of his eyes red —
tears of pity and worry and sheer physical weariness.
A man came out of a house at the corner of the
street. He was tall and broad with consciously
squared shoulders and a strong slow step. He seemed
to be leading an invisible procession and to be gravely
not unworthily aware of his responsibility.
The Herr Amtschreiber stopped running. He
choked back his gasping breath and set his glasses
straight It was as if he had suddenly remembered
his own little bit of a procession and was trying to
call it to order. Three paces away he swept off his
hat and carried it reverentially.
The Geheimrat Kohler blinked at him, hesitated and
finally stopped. Actually. Though he had married
Clarchen's sister the Herr Amtschreiber had not ex-
pected more than a nod — ^had perhaps hot wanted
more. For he was dreadfully late. Yet he was glad,
too. He wished some of his colleagues could see the
Geheimrat patting him on the shoulder.
*'Na, mem Lieber, how goes it? My wife asked
me to enquire. She woulci have called herself, but
you know how it is. She is to have audience with the
Grand Duchess this afternoon. With regard to the
Frauen Verein, you know. Still — she was very
anxious. The Frau Gemahlin is doing well, eh ?"
The Herr Amtschreiber made a little bow.
"It's very kind of you — ^please thank the Frau
Geheimratin. I don't know — I — I am rather worried
— ^terribly worried." The rising tears in his heart
almost welled over. *'When I left her she was cry-
TOWARDS MORNING 15
ing — not just crying — groaning. It was awful. I —
I don't know what to do. It's intolerable that any
one should have to suffer like that I can't believe that
it's right. I can't believe that every one has to
Herr Kohler burst out laughing. He had a hard,
rasping voice which he retained from his Garde-
Lieutenant days in Berlin.
"My dear fellow — ^you're too newly married, that's
what's the matter. Women have to go through with
it It's their duty. They were made for it. Mustn't
make a fuss. Mustn't encourage them to make a fuss.
We can't do with parasites in this country. Every
one to his duty. We fight — ^they bear children.
There's too much of the old German Sentimentalitates
Dusel left. Must be rooted out, eh, Felde ?"
The Herr Amtschreiber nodded seriously. He felt
suddenly stem and stiffened as though the Geheimrat
had rammed a poker down the back of his coat
'Yes, yes, of course."
'Na, gut. It must be a boy, eh? You know the
good old custom — the first diild to the Kaiser. A
fine boy. See to it, my dear fellow."
The Geheimrat laughed and the Herr Amtschreiber
laughed too. He had not thought about the child
at all. He had only thought about Clarchen. He be-
gan to see things in their proper perspective.
'We'll do our best," he said.
'That's good. Look here — if it is a boy I will
stand god-father — I'll — I'll do what I can. We must
make something of him. Something first class. If
we realised that every child is a cog in the national
machine, there would be fewer failures. Young Felde
mustn't be a failure, eh?"
i6 TOWARDS MORNING
"No— no. It's very good of you. Very good. I v.[
shall tell Clara. Thank you, Herr Geheimrat"
Though they were brothers-in-law, he could never have
said, "Thank you, my dear fellow," or patted the great
man on the back. "It will comfort Clara," he added
"Ach was! She shouldn't need comforting. She
should be only too glad. But no doubt she is. A
sister of Mathilde's is sure to know her duty. You're
too soft, Felde — just a little too soft. It doesn't do.
These are stem times. One must carry one's head
The Herr Amtschreiber lifted his head involuntarily.
"Assuredly, Herr Geheimrat."
'Wo — also ! Good luck. And when the happy event
takes place you must let us know."
The two men bowed and shook hands. Then the
Geheimrat walked on at the head of his procession,
and the Herr Amtschreiber turned out of the quiet
street into the Ludwig's platz.
He did not hurry any more. It was so late that
a few minutes either way had ceased to matter.
The Rathaus looked out onto a wide, old-fashioned
square. It was a grave building, but neither austere
nor arrogant Its windows were full of flowers and
two tall shrubs, like sentinels, kept guard over the stone
steps. Across the way and on either hand its low-
roofed neighbours bore it goodly company. They
TOWARDS MORNING 17
were of the same generation. They had known the
old Rathaus from their childhood and respected it,
though without servility. They knew what was due
to it and to themselves.
In the midst of the square stood the tomb-stone of
the Grand Duke who had gfiven his name to the town.
He had loved the place and had wished to be buried
in its heart. For that reason perhaps his tomb-stone
had a quaint air of having grown up out of the cob-
bles — to be a part of them.
The townsfolk were rather ashamed of their Rathaus
and of the square generally. They told strangers they
were going to pull the whole place down and build
up something that would be more in keeping with
the massive, flamboyant modernity of the Kaiser-
strasse. The square troubled them. It held aloof
from their clanging trams and vociferous motor-cars,
wrapping itself in grave civic dignity.
The Herr Amtschreiber went in by a side entrance.
He had seen the sober carriage and pair with the gold-
braided footmen and the little knot of idlers and
he knew just what had happened. He could not think
of Clarchen any more. A cold fear had laid hold of
him. But he could not hurry. He was like a truant
school-boy, dragging leaden feet
The Staatszimmer was full of his colleagues. They
stood in a long row, very stiff and upright, giving their
elderly figures a martial bearing. In front of them the
Grand Duke paced up and down with the chief offi-
cials, like a general on parade. He was tall and grey-
haired, with the remote and melancholy expression
of a man forever playing a part which wearies and
disgusts him. The grey military coat and spurred
heels did not make him a soldier.
i8 TOWARDS MORNING
"I thank you, gentlemen," he said.
The Herr Amtschreiber stood at the end of the
row. He had forgotten to take off his overcoat and
his soft hat was clutched convulsively in his right
hand. The Staatszimmer was thick with a murky
twilight, but through the long windows opposite he
caught a glimpse of the square glittering in winter
sunshine. The Grand Duke and his civilian staff
moved against the light like faceless shadows. But
the Herr Amtschreiber knew that they were looking
at him — ^staring at him as though he had been some
strange animal. He knew that his colleagues were
thinking of him with a mixture of gloating self-satis-
faction and pity.
"Poor devil ! Glad I'm not in his shoes."
The Grand Duke, cap in hand, had reached the
"I wish you good-morning, gentlemen."
They bowed stiffly and expressionlessly. When the
door closed they relaxed, stamping their feet and
moving their arms like schoolboys after a long re-
straint The Herr Amtschreiber stood apart. He
tried to say something, to laugh and look unconcerned,
but he knew that they saw through him and knew that
he was sick with the premonition of disgrace.
"Well," he thought, "he can't kill me."
They heard the clatter of hoofs on the cobbles
and presently a man came back into the room. He
was short and thick-set with light-blue protuberant
eyes. He came up to the Herr Amtschreiber — so close
to him that it seemed as though he meant to tread
him down under his feet
"You choose a strange occasion to over-sleep your-
self, Herr Felde," he said loudly and coldly. "What
TOWARDS MORNING 19
do you suppose the Grand Duke thinks of an admin-
istration in which the officials behave as you do ? His
Royal Highness honours us with his presence and you
stroll in an hour late — ^your coat on — ^anyhow — ^with
a dirty collar — ^and — ^and crumpled clothes. My God
—one would think you had been drinking/'
The Herr Amtschreiber's lips trembled.
'TExcuse me — ^my wife is ill — I was up all night."
**What is that to me? Do you think the work of
the state has to stop still because your wife has a
headache? Let me tell you, Herr Felde, we expect
efficiency in this office— efficiency and again efficieiicy.
Those who can't live up to our standards — well, they
can take their talents elsewhere. That's all."
The Herr Amtschreiber did not answer. He made
a little bow and crept away to his office at the back
of the Rathaus. His knees shook under him. It was
as though he had been whipped in public — ^before all
his fellows. But the shame did not matter. The veiled
threat mattered. His Bureau-Chef hated him — ^had
always hated him. And an "entlassense Beamte^' — 3,
middle-aged official dismissed for inefficiency — ^what
was he ? An old circus-horse, trained to gallop round
and round the ring, thrust out to find a living on the
And there was Clarchen and the mysterious, half-
realised being who was coming — ^and the Geheimrat
who would shrug his flat, broad shoulders.
"He was bound to fail. Too soft — ^much too soft.
It doesn't do : these are stem times."
The Herr Amtschreiber bent over his papers.
Though his head was hot and heavy, he worked with
a feverish accuracy. The machine revolved round
him and he who was just a little cog, infinitely signifi-
20 TOWARDS MORNING
cant, infinitely insignificant, revolved in measure. If
he failed there would be a moment's hitch. The en-
gineer would come burrowing down to the cause and
wrench him off and throw him to the scrap-heap.
There would be no recrimination — ^no explanation. It
was appallingly simple. The cog mattered only so
long as it served its purpose. It was the machine —
the machine that mattered always.
The Herr Amtschreiber forgot himself. The at-
mosphere of the dingy office stifled all personality —
all feeling. It smelt of all the little souls that had
sweated out their life there — and of something mori-
bund, as though an alien and evil spirit had crept into
the old Rathaus and was eating out its heart.
No one spoke to him. His colleagues held aloof
with an air of condemnation. He felt no surprise
or pain. It was just. He had sinned. And then
they too had the spectre of failure at their elbows.
They too were afraid. Not only for themselves. They
were thinking of the machine. It was as though at
the back of their minds was the vision of its collapse —
of a monstrous cataclysm.
At last some one came up to him and spoke. It
was old Heim who had grown grey and bent in the
Service. He had never risen above the position of a
clerk and now he was near the end. A cancer ate
at his vitals and soon he would be going into the
hospital to die. But he was holding on to his office
as though it were his life.
"This has just come for you, Herr Felde."
The Herr Amtschreiber tore open the untidy en-
velope. The slip of paper inside was smeared with
an illiterate scrawl:
TOWARDS MORNING 21
"If the Herr Amtschreiber would please come at
once. The Herr Doktor says so.
He sat there blinking over his glasses. His vacant
wandering blue eyes rested at last in a fascinated stare
on the broad back of his chief. His hands began
to tremble and the slip of paper fluttered down on to
"I can't — " he thought over and over again. "I
He turned stupidly. Old Heim was leaning against
the desk, his face yellow and withered as old parch-
ment, his dry lips opened in a smothered gasp.
"Herr Felde — if I could be excused — ^this after-
noon — I am not well — ^you know how it is — ^the pain —
it's very bad."
Something leapt up out of the dark places of the
Herr Amtschreiber's heart It was tigerish — ^bestial.
It had lain there all night, ringed in by enemies,
goaded and starved, gnawing the roots of its hid-
ing-place. As it leapt upon its victim the Herr
Amtschreiber could have screamed out in an ecstasy
His hand lying on the desk clenched itself to a fist.
*T>o you perhaps take this for a hospital, Herr
Heim?" he asked.
Their eyes met and held for a moment. Then the
old man turned away. He went back to his desk and
climbed on to his stool — ^painfully, like a tired child.
The Herr Amtschreiber bent over his work. The
22 TOWARDS MORNING
rims of his eyes stung as though they had been burn^
The cheap lamp nailed to the wall had been shaded
and in the half obscurity where one form merged it-
self in another the voice sounded faint and far off as
the memory of a dream.
"Our own," it said, "our very own."
The Herr Amtschreiber pressed his cheek against
the hand that lay so heavily upon the quilt Gently
it was withdrawn and fumbling like the hand of some
one newly blind rested at last on his bowed head,
soothing him with a pitying, drowsy movement
"Mustn't cry, Mdnnchen — ^it's all right now — ^it was
very bad — ^but it's over — ^and it's worth while — to have
something of our very own."
"I am so proud," he whispered, " — it is so wonder-
"A life we've made — together — ^to take care of —
to make happier — ^than we have been."
"Our son— our son," he repeated simply.
The doctor and the nurse standing deep in shadow
smiled palely as though this high-song of thanksgiv-
ing, so familiar, so eternal, could never lose its pa-
thetic humour. The doctor bent down and touched
the kneeling man upon the shoulder.
"Come !" he said. "You must let her sleep."
The Herr Amtschreiber stumbled to his feet. He
did not look at the face that seemed to float like a
white flower on a dark tide, nor at the unknown who
slept in the low cradle. He went out, reeling drunk-
enly, through the door which the doctor held open
TOWARDS MORNING 23
for him. His teeth chattered in fever and he put his
hands against the stove, letting its warm comfort steal
up through his veins.
The plump little doctor watched him, still smiling
and stroking his neat beard.
"You will take it more calmly next time," he said
prosaically. "The first is always a shock. One takes
children so much for granted — ^and other people's chil-
dren are never wonderful. But you mustn't excite
her, you know. It won't do— either for her or for
The Herr Amtschreiber lifted his head.
"I couldn't come," he muttered. "You see, there
was work at the office ^"
"Of course. Very admirable of you. It's our old
German sense of duty. As it happened it was all right
But I had an anxious quarter of an hour. You see,
your wife is not so young any more — and in that case
there is always danger. I thought I might have to
choose between the two of them — suddenly. There
was no time to ask you. But she chose. A brave
woman. I congratulate you, my friend."
"And the child?"
"A fine boy — a regular little grenadier." Dr. Roth
picked up his hat, chuckling. "I'll be round to-mor-
row. No — don't bother to see me out — ^you're not fit.
Take a good glass of something to steady you. Good-
night — good-night — ^my dear fellow."
The door closed. But a minute later Anna came
in bearing the lamp. She looked at him, her big shad-
owed eyes heavy with weariness. Yet there was a
smile in them — ^that same slow smile of deep, uncon-
24 TOWARDS MORNING
"The Herr Amtschreiber is glad that it is a boy?"
she asked softly.
**One is always glad when it is a son," she said.
'*When I was bom my mother cried. There are too
many of us."
"But you have brothers?" he muttered absently.
"Oh, yes — there were four — two are in America.
And two are serving their time. It is not easy to
work the fields without them. In the harvest time
my mother goes out and gathers in the com. She is
old now — so old "
He did not hear her. She went out soft-footed as
she had come and he stretched his arms above his
head so that he seemed to himself to grow young and
strong and tall. The shuddering fear had gone. He
was a god. His joy lifted him out of the grey crowd
where he belonged. For a moment romance touched
him with her golden finger and illuminated him. Once
before it had come to him— on his wedding night when
the love that had been so cramped with little sordid
cares had burst its bonds and shown herself royal
and reckless even in them. It would come again per-
haps — surely once again at least with the last ro-
mance of all.
He went slowly to the table and sat down. A life-
old instinct held steadfast in him. There were things
to be done — 3, note to the Geheimrat — an order to
the printer — ^a notice to be inserted in the daily paper.
He drew that morning's Tagblatt towards him and
turned over the pages. How big was the notice to
be? Schulrat Vosser had taken the half of two col-
umns for his daughter. One couldn't do less. That
would cost over ten marks. Ten marks from a weekly
TOWARDS MORNING 25
seventy. And there would be the doctor and the nurse
and extra help and the chemist's bill
Perhaps a smaller notice would do.
The music of a military band escorting a regiment
home to its barracks came in a thrilling wave from
the distance. It filled the drab conventional room with
a fierce glow of colour. It blew fear away as a wind
drives off a creeping mist.
The Herr Amtschreiber sat back and dreamed.
"Happier than we have been!"
Yes, that was it. Not a failure, struggling and in-
effectual, not even a cog playing its little part faith-
fully in the great whole, but an eagle mounting in
great flights, a new force driving the machine faster
and more splendidly to its goal. A judge, a general,
an admiral, a prince of commerce. These things hap-
pened. They would pinch and save. They would
manage somehow so that he should spread his young
wings freely. In him all that they had dreamed would
come to flower. He would be their hope, their ambi-
tion, their life.
They would call him Helmut It was German and
heroic. It spread a light about it. Helmut — ^bright
He took a clean sheet of paper and began to draw
up the announcement He made it bigger and more
splendid even than that of the Schulrat Vosser. His
lips trembled as he wrote:
"Herr and Frau Felde joyfully announce to their
friends that this day a beautiful boy has been bom
He framed it in thick black lines so that it looked
like a shout of triumph. When it was done he dropped
forward with his face between his hands.
26 TOWARDS MORNING
"God grant it !" he whispered. "God grant it !"
There wa3 quiet and warmth within and without.
The sweet exhaustion of tears crept up about him in a
drowsy mist And so the Herr Amtschreiber slept —
suddenly and peacefully. And in his sleep he heard
an infant crying.
At the bottom of all memories were Heinl and Fritz
Schnatitzchen. There had never been a time when
Heini was not In a nebulous world of vague gigan-
tic shapes, now dwindling into distance, Heini stood
out clear and definite as a rock. His beaming, never
changing smile, his stiff sawdust limbs stretched out
in jolly welcome, had received the first word and the
first conscious caress. He had taken part in the first
perilous two-legged journey across the dinging-room.
He had suffered in the disaster. His painted features
were dimmed with the smear of many tears and the
jammy kisses of a consoled partner. If he grew less
sightly with the months that were then as eternities,
and if there were times when the most ardent shrank
from his proffered embrace, to Helmut he was still
the perfect friend whose being had been linked to his
by hands of almost mystic tmderstanding.
Quite other was the history of Fritz Schnautzchen,
who had come later in the glorious period of pram
emancipation. He was a stray, the Feldes said, apolo-
getically, and had been "picked up" because of Hel-
mut's absurd infatuation, but Helmut knew better. He
knew that they had chosen each other — ^that they "be-
longed" according to an unwritten and secret law.
One day in the forest they had met for the first time.
Helmut had been playing at his mother's side with
28 TOWARDS MORNING '
the fallen fir-cones — ^a mysterious silent game which
his mother never understood — ^and suddenly Fritz
Schnautzchen had appeared from among tt^e trees.
They had stood gazing at each other for a long time,
not saying anything or moving, and then Fritz
Schnautzchen had quietly come to a decision. He f fal-
lowed Helmut's heels to the big grey block of flats in
the Louisenstrasse, and had waited patiently on the
door step whilst Helmut howled within for his adop-
tion. In the end their love had triumphed, and every
week a twenty-five pfennig piece was set aside towards
a dog-tax which was in theory to be Helmut's birth-
There was no very clear explanation for Sdmautz-
chen's unusual and slightly grotesque nomenclature ex-
cept perhaps in the fact that he himself was unusual
and more than slightly grotesque. The "Schnautz-
chen" may have had its origin in the raceless snub nose
which must have been derived from a pug ancestor —
the Fritz was unquestionably utilitarian. One could not
shout "Schnautzchen" with any comfort and certainly
not with dignity.
He was, in truth, not beautiful and not even young.
He was a kind of dog all to himself, baulking descrip-
tion, and the years weighed heavily upon him. One
saw that life had not been kind, and behind his dim
brown eyes was the sad knowledge of inexplicable hu-
man cruelty. He shrank from men — even from the
Herr Amtschreiber — ^and women he tolerated wearily.
He went with no one, followed no one, save his chosen
god. Helmut he loved. Helmut he followed. When
the boy played his strange games with his strange
toys, the dog would sit by and watch gravely. When
Helmut ran, Fritz Schnautzchen girded up his old loins
TOWARDS MORNING 29
and ran too — ^panting but indomitable. In the hours
which Helmut spent in the Kindergarten Schnautz-
chen watched with Heini for his return. Or some-
times Frau Felde would take them with her when
she went to fetch her son, but this was not often, be-
cause she was just a little ashamed of both of them.
Between Heini and Fritz Schnautzchen there must
have been some alliance. It subtly excluded Helmut
They made it, as it were, over his head and without
his knowledge. But it was for his protection. They
were older and wiser with inarticulate wisdom, and
they loved him. They had their life from him and
were ready to give it up for his sake, and knowing
this of each other they became comrades. There could
have been no other explanation for a dog's devotion
to a rag doll.
As to Heini his attitude and his expression were
less scrutable. He embraced his ally as he embraced
every one, with open arms and a wide engaging smile.
With these two on either side of him, Helmut came
through the fairy-land of babyhood.
To Helmut his mother and father were grey peo-
ple. They were the same colour as the flight of stone
steps which led up to their flat and the dim hall and the
faded sitting-room. For a long time he did not even
realise that they had features but recognised them by
instinct from the midst of other grey people. And
they had a disconcerting knack of dwindling and
growing. For instance on Stmday in the big Luth-
eran Church in the West-end Strasse they grew big-
30 TOWARDS MORNING
ger, as though the slow rolling hymns and packed mass
of other dull clad people, singing with all their might,
reinforced them and gave them confidence and dig-
nity. But after the service when they walked out
together in the forest which girdled the town like a
deep green sea, they faded again. They walked stiffly
and anxiously in their best clothes. They looked to
right and left and bowed to every one they knew, and
talked about them in low tones, and the vividness
and straight tall strength of the trees made them col-
ourless and subdued.
But even when they were most faded, most grey,
they were still omnipresent Heini and Schnautzchen
were bright and definite realities, but they came and
went. His mother and father were about him always.
Like a low cloud they encompassed his going and his
coming. He loved them, but a queer pain mingled
itself with his love. A nerve united them to one an-
other, but it was a nerve that ached under secret, con-
stant pressure. He knew, though, without reasoning
that they were always thinking about him, watching
him, waiting. He felt that when they were alone
they talked about him, even when they talked of other
things — of the Herr Geheimrat, or the Bureau Chef,
or the hope of promotion, or the cost of living, they
looked at him as though he were the real significance
of these things.
Once when he had been playing with Schnautzchen
and Heini his mother had called him, and he had not
instantly obeyed. At last when he came, panting and
rosy-cheeked, half laughing, half defiant, his mother
had put her hands on his shoulders and he had felt
them tremble. Her plain round face was close to
his, and for the first time she came out of her mist
TOWARDS MORNING 31
and he saw her clearly. He remembered her as she
was then ever afterwards, and for the first time too,
he saw himself.
"Helmut — you must obey— obey always," she said.
"Unless you obey you will never command, you will
never be strong, you will- never be a great man. You
will never be of any use. We have all got to obey."
Why?" he asked truculently.
It is our duty."
The greatest thing in the world." It was strange
what hardness, what sternness came into her face.
And yet behind it all he felt the pain. "Duty is what
we owe our country. A sense of duty is the greatest
German virtue. Promise me, Helmut — ^promise
He did not know what she asked but he took a deep
"I'll try," he said solemnly. "Fll try hard.'*
She caressed him with hard, eager hands.
"We love you, Helmut — ^you must always remember
that we love you."
And hereafter his games were never quite the same,
and their love weighed upon him like a burden. A
spectre stalked beside him, waiting for its moment
to seize him and devour him.
It was tall and grim and pitiless. And it was called
He believed most in the things he could not see. In
spite of the Geheimrat who explained the mechanism
carefully to him, he believed in a little friendly spirit
32 TOWARDS MORNING
who, when you rang the bell outside the big door
downstairs, lifted the latch and let you in. He be-
lieved in a brilliant dashing person who could fill a
pitch dark room with a blaze of light, and every now
and then turned crusty and wouldn't He could al-
most see the crowds of tiny grey men pushing the
trams along and clanging a bell. He did see them
at night in the Stadtgarten when the band played and
the lights twinkled, and the black-coated waiters ran
hither and thither like worried moths. He saw them
then under the shadow of the trees. They smoked
their long pipes and drank out of their little mugs of
beer, and nodded their heads to the music.
He believed in fairies — ^not in the conventional fair-
ies of the books, for he had never heard of them — ^but
in the fairies from Anna's village in the mountains.
Anna was married now and had a ricketty, heavy-
headed baby which she loved. She was softer and
sadder-eyed than ever. On Fridays and Tuesdays she
came in to help Frau Felde clean, and when she was
eating her lundi of dry bread and coffee she told Hel-
mut about her home and about the fairies. It appeared
that they were a queer people, not friendly — ^not un-
friendly. They treated human beings like selfish in-
truders — ^more stupid than wicked — whom one teased,
or helped, or ptmished according to their merit. To
the really ill-intentioned they could be exceedingly
nasty. For instance, there was old Hansel who had
deliberately planted a potato patch on their favourite
ball-room, his potatoes did not flourish you may be
sure, and his pigs died one after another, and finally
old Hansel himself. And every night they dance on
his grave so that he can't sleep.
Helmut looked forward to Tuesdays and Fridays,
TOWARDS MORNING 33
and most of all to Saturday. On Saturday when it
was fine they all five — Heini and Schnautzchen in-
cluded — ^took the tram to the Durlacher Turm, which
was a Roman watch-tower on a hill overlooking the
Rhine, and climbing up by a minute ftmicular train
wandered through the forests and over the fields to
an inn where there was coffee and Apfelkuchen, and
sometimes new wine tasting sweet and strong of the
grape. An old stork, whose wing had been injured
in babyhood, kept guard in the courtyard, standing
on one miraculously thin leg and klappering with his
beak to show his disapproval of little boys like Helmut
One special Saturday in spring they went out into
the woods to gather the lilies of the valley. The air
sparkled as though the sun had given it a special pol-
ishing after the long winter, and the fruit trees lay
white as snow on the hills. But one tree bore no
blossoms. It stood bleak and grey among its fellows
holding out its gaunt arms pitifully.
"The poor tree is dead," said Helmut's mother.
He stood looking up into the branches, his arms full
of the green-sheathed spoils.
"Do trees die ?" he asked, "and flowers ?"
The Herr Amtschreiber pointed with his stick.
"Someone has torn off the bark and injured the
trunk. Look where the sap has run out."
"What is sap?"
"It is like our blood." He took a lily of the valley
and showed the pale greenish moisture where the stem
had been snapped. "You see, it's the same thing, its
life is running away. It's been torn in half, as it
were. Of course we can keep it fresh in water for a
day or two, but it's dying — one might say dead."
"I killed it," said Helmut slowly.
34 TOWARDS MORNING
They were not looking at him.
"Think how pretty they will be in the big vase/'
said Frau Felde. "That is what they were made for."
They walked on, Helmut lingered behind. He was
whiter than the apple tree and shivering as though
with cold. He knelt down and dug in the soft earth,
Schnautzchen, with dim memories of rabbit-hunts,
helping feebly. In the hole Helmut laid his flowers
and covered them with leaves.
"I didn't know," he said. "I didn't know you were
alive like me. I won't hurt any of you again ever "
He said his little evening hymn over them. It be-
gan : "I am very little but my heart is pure and belongs
to Jesus and Jesus alone." He did not know quite
what it meant but it was all he could think of. Fritz
Schnautzchen sat by and blinked wisely and Heini lay
on his back and smiled up at the sun.
Helmut did not gather any more flowers. And
there was no Apfelkuchen for him that day either. He
came back huddled in the comer of the tram, in dis-
grace and crying softly. He fell asleep at last worn
out with grief, and the Herr Amtschreiber had to
carry him home in his arms.
"He must learn to obey," the Herr Amtschreiber
panted. "Whatever else he learns he must learn that"
Frau Felde looked at the fair rotmd head.
"He is so young," she said pleadingly — and then
as though she were ashamed — "Yes, it is better for
him that he should learn now."
There had been other Christmases, but they had
come suddenly, as it were, bursting into view like sky-
TOWARDS MORNING 35
rockets — ^and such eternities had passed before another
came along that Helmut had almost forgotten about
them. But he felt this one coming. He recognised the
signs and remembered the thrill in the air which grew
stronger and more exciting every day. There was
the advent of marzipan animals in the windows of
the Conditoreis, fir trees began to cluster outside the
flower shops, people went about carrying parcels and
talking mysteriously. On Sunday all the shops were
open, and peasants in bullock wagons and wearing their
best broadcloth came pouring in, always in greater
numbers. They moved about slowly and with dig-
nity, and refused to make up their minds and were
very suspicious of the assistant, who, in the end, sold
them whatever she most wanted to get rid of.
Copper Sunday ! Silver Sunday ! Golden Sunday !
If the other Christmases had been like sky-rockets
this one was like the slow splendid rising of a winter
Christmas Eve! Pandemonium in the shops. Al-
ways somebody who had forgotten something. A wild
rushing hither and thither. Over-laden postmen ap-
pearing at all sorts of unorthodox hours. An absurd
excitement on the most soured elderly countenances.
A whole town feverishly doing and thinking the same
In the Felde's flat the dining room had become a
place of mystery, closed to all but the high priests.
The double doors were locked and the key-hole pasted
over. Helmut and Heini and Schnautzdien sat close
together on a chair in the passage, and stared in awe-
struck longing; even if the doors hadn't been locked
they would not have dared look in. It was a sort of
glorious Blue Beard's chamber.
36 TOWARDS MORNING
At last twilight added its mystery to the growing
tension. Frau Felde changed into her best plaid silk
blouse, the Herr Amtschreiber arrived from the office
with the Herr Geheimrat and his long thin wife and
their seven year old son Kurt close on his heels. (They
were just looking in before their own festivities began,
they said.) Then came Tante Louise, the post office
official's widow, and two elderly female cousins with
their husbands, who were going to stay all the time.
But the real piice de resistance was of course the
Kurt and Helmut sat together in the hall. They
did not speak to one another. Kurt despised Helmut
and Helmut hated Kurt, if it was only for the way
he looked at Heini, and they were both scowling when
a bell tinkled and the folding doors were flung wide.
Helmut rushed in with Schnautzchen barking quite
youthfully at his heels. Kurt followed deliberately.
It wasn't his tree, and anyhow he didn't think much
of it. It stood in the comer and hardly touched the
ceiling, and there was no snow on it, and the shiny
coloured balls were few and far between. But to Hel-
mut it was the biggest and finest tree he had ever
seen. The dark branches shone with candles and
arched themselves under their many strange shaped
burdens, and there was the sweetest smell of burning
Frau Felde sat at the piano and her hard work-worn
fingers touched the keys softly, and they all stood still
and looked at the fir tree whilst they sang:
O, Tannenbaum, 0, Tannenbaum —
Wie griin sind deine Blatter — '*
TOWARDS MORNING 37
When it was over Helmut advanced shyly towards
his parcels. And first of all he took down Schnautz-
chen's bone all tied up in ribbon, and Schnautzchen
tried to beg, and finally carried off his Christmas pres-
ent in triumph and hid himself under the table as
though he were afraid of encountering an envious
Every one laughed except Kurt who looked bored
And there were sweets — sweets ever)rwhere. Hel-
mut's cheeks bulged with sweets so that his kiss of
gratitude was no unmixed blessing. The floor was
strewed with paper from the recklessly opened par-
cels. A toy cart, an engine, an indiarubber ball, a
pair of socks knitted by Tante Louise, which Helmut
didn't care for at all. The finest parcel came last of
all. The Geheimrat, looking bigger and more impor-
tant than ever, helped him to undo the wrappings.
Something glittered, and then as the last piece of
tissue paper fell away a complete Cuirassier's uniform,
breast-plate, sword and trappings, shone brazenly in
the soft candle light.
There was an "Oh !" of astonishment and admiration
subtly directed at the Geheimrat, who stroked his
black moustache and chuckled.
"Now we are going to make a real man of you,
Helmut did not answer. He was quite still whilst
they buckled on his tmiform. A strange feeling came
over him. His splendour dazzled him — ^and yet tears
were not far off. He caught a glimpse of somebody
in the Venetian glass, and suddenly he was fright-
ened. He did not recognise the small stiff figure in
the glittering breast-plate or the set face under the
38 TOWARDS MORNING
shadow of the helmet. It was as though a witch —
one of Anna's wicked old witches — ^had waved her
wand and changed him.
"Come — out with your sword — ^present arms — ^head
up, my boy "
Mechanically he dragged the toy weapon from its
scabbard, but he did not know what to do with it
How did one present arms? The Geheimrat towered
over him. His dark puffy face came closer and closer.
It was laughing, and yet in its gross proximity hideous
and evil. Helmut shrank back, everybody was laugh-
ing at him — ^watching and smiling stiffly. He was lost
among all these faces. He sought his mother but her
eyes were hard. It was as though she knew he was
going to cry — ^and threatened him.
The Geheimratin's voice sotmded shrill with mock-
"Oh, what a silly baby ! Kurt can salute like a real
soldier — Kurt, show Helmut."
"Wait !" said the Geheimrat. He had seen the tear
rolling down the flushed cheek. He still laughed, but
a dull anger stirred in him. He was in a holiday
mood. He condescended to throw off his dignity and
play like any ordinary person, and it insulted him that
this child should cry. It made him ridiculous in the
eyes of all these watchers — these poor feckless rela-
tions, who had never done anything but fail all their
lives. And the Geheimrat had never failed. He
laughed more loudly. "Just wait — Helmut can't drill
yet — ^but he can fight, I wager, like a lion." And
suddenly he caught up Heini by one of the out-
stretched arms — ^gingerly — ^and dropped him on a va-
cant chair by the stove. "Now, then, my young sol-
dier, that's what we're going to fight for. You're a
TOWARDS MORNING 39
German and Fm a beastly Englishman coming to take
yotir precious treasure from you. Now, lode out —
I'm coming "
He seized one of the best cushions and holding it
like a shield advanced threateningly. Every one
laughed and clapped their hands. How charming of
the Geheimrat! How wonderful he was with chil-
dren — ^the life of the party. And their whispered flat-
tery came to the big man's ears. He capered terrify-
"Come on, my fine fellow — en garde!"
For a minute Helmut stood as one paralysed, and
then something woke in him — something new, never
before experienced. It was like the rush of a great
wind through his shaken soul. Imagination caught
fire and flamed up in anger and terror. Heini in dan-
ger — Heini in danger! and the great black figure
loomed up nearer. In the sheerest panic he struck
out wildly — ^with all his strength.
The point of the sword caught the Geheimrat on
the wrist. He laughed again, but the blow had hurt.
"Ah, you would, would you ! Wait, my cockerel."
He made a grasp at Heini lying against the back
of the chair and smiling serenely upon them all. The
red clutching hand filled Helmut's vision. He flew
at it like a mad thing — screaming — frenzied with fear
and rage. He hurled himself against his aggressor,
beating him with his clenched fists, tearing at him.
"Leave Heini alone — don't you touch my Heini."
And suddenly his sharp white teeth bit on the red
hand. The Geheimrat did not laugh now. He shook
the child off as though he had been a rat. Deliberately,
terribly, he lifted the rag-doll and opened the slot of
the glowing stove. Just for an instant Heini stood
40 TOWARDS MORNING
out in shadow against the light — ^then vanished — ^head
foremost — arms and legs outstretched — friendly and
grinning to the end.
"I think I score," said the Geheimrat, smiling and
pulling at his disordered cuffs.
They all laughed again.
But Helmut did not move. He was staring stu-
pidly, his helmet over one ear, his small face livid and
contorted. And then suddenly he dropped where he
Someone ran to him. Someone picked him up.
He heard the Geheimrat's voice booming a long way
"Over excitement — ^too many sweets — a rag-doll
like that for a boy — idiotic — ^too soft — ^must make a
man of him, my dear Felde — make a man of him."
And then all was dark.
It was all dark for a long time — dark and very still.
He lay quiet, thinking about his head which ached so
and his eyes which burnt as though he had been crying.
He knew that he was in bed, but he did not remem-
ber how he got there or what had happened. He
wondered if Christmas Eve were to-morrow— or next
week. He wanted it so, and it had such a tiresome
way of always being next week.
He felt alone and frightened.
He pushed his feet down gingerly. There was
Schnautzchen sure enough curled up at the foot of
the bed and snoring softly. The sound comforted
him. He put his arm outside the bedclothes and groped
about for the chair at his side where Heini slept at
night Sometimes — ^as a great treat — ^usually after
a bad dream, Heini was taken in and reassured and
TOWARDS MORNING 41
cuddled till they both went to. sleep in each other's
But there was no chair. Where the chair had been
there was just emptiness.
And suddenly his heart began to beat, so that it
seemed it would burst in his breast
"Heini— oh, Heini !"
Heini was dead. Heini had been killed. Heini
would never come again. No, that wasn't true, it
wasn't possible. Heini had always been there — Heini
had always known everything — ^understood every-
thing. It couldn't be that he would never see him
again — ^never hold him in his arms — ^never tell him
secrets. It was one of the bad dreams. In a minute
his hand would find the chair and Heine's podgy little
body, and they would be locked together.
"Heini— Heini "
Like a coloured cinematograph picture he saw the
red gaping mouth of the stove and Heini's shadow —
spread-eagle fashion, sliding into the depths.
Once he had burnt his finger. It had hurt unfor-
gettably. And Heini had been burnt like that — ^all
over — ^till he was dead. And he, his friend, had stood
by and seen it done. He hadn't stopped it. He hadn't
even killed the murderer
Still he couldn't believe. He hurled himself against
the truth, just as he had hurled himself against the
Geheimrat, beating at it with clenched, impotent fists.
He twisted about in convulsive, physical anguish.
"Heini — oh, Heini— come bade."
Then things happened like that, and there were
things that never could come back — ^that God Himself
couldn't mend. Heini had been good. He had never
42 TOWARDS MORNING
been unkind or untruthful. But it wasn't enough to
be good. People told you lies. You had to be strong
too — strong as the Geheimrat — stronger
Then God paid attention to what you said.
He sat up violently. He did not know what he had
heard. It was not so dark any more. A pale starlight
came through the slits in the shutters and he could
just see the dim shapes of the furniture. The chair
where Heini had slept stood against the wall. Heini
was not there — ^but there was something else — a shim-
mering ghostly body — ^squat and upright — ^with a sil-
He knew what it was. The knowledge made him
more afraid. It drove the sweat out on his face. He
could not move his eyes. The thing fascinated him
evilly. There was the sword leaning against the chair.
He had worn it. If he had been strong enough he
could have driven it into the Geheimrat's heart. He
could have saved Heini
One had to be strong.
The light was brightning. It flashed on the silver
head-piece— on the round shining belly. They moved.
Yes, he saw them move. Suddenly Schnautzchen's
heavy breathing stopped. He sat up — growling — his
pricked ears silhouetted against the light. A real body
inside the breast-plate reared itself up on black in-
visible legs. It grew taller — ^monstrous. There was
a head under the helmet. The face lay in deep shadow
— ^but it was there — ^and he knew whose face it was.
It came nearer and nearer. There was something
grotesque about it. It waddled. One could have
laughed. It grinned at Helmut, its eyes hollow — its
teeth shining under the black moustache. The sword
clanked at its side.
TOWARDS MORNING 43
"Gmie — ^we must make a man of you — a man of
Sdinautzchen crept up the bed into his master's
arms. G)nvulsively Helmut clung to him, shielding
him, his teeth clenched, the hair rising on his head.
"No, you shan't — ^you shan't"
Nearer it came. It bent over him. It was quite
close when in an instant it changed. The moustache
vanished. It was his own face — ^as he had seen it
in the glass — ^twisted, livid, frightful.
And then he screamed — screamed, so that the night
rang with his mortal terror.
*'He is so young/* said Frau Felde.
She sat very stiff and upright in her chair, her
plump figure tight-cased in the cheap coat, her gloved
hands clasped over her bag. "He is so young," she
said. There was no expression on her face. It re-
mained stolid and almost hard. Yet they turned on
her as though her voice irritated them. Only the
Herr Amtschreiber did not look at her, but sat star-
ing between his knees at the carpet
The Frau Geheimratin laughed.
"How sentimental you are, Clara. Kurt has been
at school for a whole year, he is already in the Quinta.
The sooner a boy goes into harness the better."
"We can't have a fool in the family," the Geheim-
rat added. He stood very big and black against the
window, seeming to blot out the light. His tone said :
"another fool," and the Herr Amtschreiber wilted and
shrank into his ill-fitting overcoat. "As I have told
you I am willing to do all I can for Helmut. I will
give him a start in life in any reasonable profession.
But there must be some order and discipline in his
education. If I am to have anything to do with him it
must be on my terms. He is already inclined to a
foolish dreaminess and softness. We don't want to
encourage the type. We've had enough of it in the
past We want men with iron brains and iron fists.
TOWARDS MORNING 45
Helmut may have brains — ^I don't know. He seems
to me rather slow. The more reason why he should
begin his proper school career at once. In any other
case I should feel obliged to refuse any responsi-
Frau Felde did not answer. A faint flush had risen
to her cheeks. The Herr Amtschreiber peered over
"You are quite right — quite right, of course. Hel-
mut must go to the Gymnasitun at once." He cleared
his throat humbly. "Absolutely right," he mtunbled.
The Geheimrat smiled and stroked his sweeping
I think I am — I really think I am."
'Of course you are," his wife ejaculated almost
"He is so young," Frau Felde repeated. But it was
in a whisper. It seemed to come against her will,
and her lips closed themselves into a tight line, so
that they should not disobey again.
The Geheimratin yawned openly.
"And now for heaven's sake let us talk of some-
thing else," she said.
'Good-morning, Herr Oberlehrer!"
There was a sound like the sudden rising of a wind.
Through the open window Helmut could see the
high stone wall and the green tops of the trees. One
tree grew quite near to the wall. Its branches, deli-
cately clad with soft half-open buds, hung right over
into the courtyard. They had a shy yet mocking air
46 TOWARDS MORNING
of deliberate intrusion, it was as though they said:
"What a dull place! Let us see what we can do for
Suddenly something brown and flashing appeared
among them. It flashed and then sat still — so still
that it seemed that it must have been there always —
its fuzzy tail curled up in a mark of interrogation,
its bright eye alert for the answer. A light breeze
ruffled its furry coat, and set the shadow of the
branches dancing over the wall.
Helmut held his breath. He was afraid to move.
He had never seen one so close — so still.
"You there — what's your name?"
A voice fell like a dull thud somewhere in the dis-
tance. The squirrel blinked, flashed again and was
gone. Evidently it did not like the voice — and no
wonder. But perhaps if one was very, still it would
"Are you deaf, my yotmg gentleman, or is it the
custom in your part of the world not to answer when
you are spoken to?"
Helmut turned slowly. Staring so fixedly into the
bright morning light had dazed him. But he knew
something had changed. There was a man seated at
the high desk against the wall. All the boys were on
their feet He could not see properly yet, their faces
"Take your time, my friend. I am entirely at your
disposal. Pray do not disturb yourself in any way."
The voice rasped. Some one tittered and there was
a little sputter of laughter all over the room — like the
crackling of a damp squib. The man at the desk leant
forward, his chin resting on one hand. Helmut could
see him clearly now. He was narrow- faced and wore
TOWARDS MORNING 47
a fair moustache, which showed his straight tight
mouth. His eyes were deep set and brown and lus-
treless. They had the glazed look of an angry animal.
**When you feel disposed will you be so gracious as
to stand up, my unknown young friend ?" he asked.
Helmut stood up at last — ^but painfully as though
his limbs had turned to lead. They were all looking
at him, their round faces full of suppressed malicious
merriment A minute before he had just been one of
them, and now he was alone — ^in the midst of a world
"What is your name?"
His own voice sounded strange and unfamiliar.
"I see — ^you are the only Helmut in the world. You
do not need to distinguish yourself like other mor-
tals. Come, your other name, sir !"
"Good. Our acquaintanceship progresses." The
lean black body inclined itself satirically. "Names dp
not seem to come easily to you, however. Do you
happen to know where you are living?"
The numbness seemed to be creeping up into his
"Louisenstrasse 51, on the fourth floor "
The laughter burbled afresh. The blood mounted to
the boy's fair hair. His eyes fixed themselves on the
man's mouth — ^twisted into a bitter smile.
"That is most interesting. You have here, boys,
a case of the lesser being more than the greater. Karl-
stadt is evidently not so important as the Louisen-
strasse — ^let alone the fourth storey at number 51. But
perhaps you know the name of your cotmtry "
"Baden," came the low stifled answer.
48 TOWARDS MORNING
'Ah — ^ha — Germany doesn't count. And who gov-
erns you, pray?"
"The Grand— Du— The Emperor "
"Emperor who ?"
There was a silence. His lips moved. A mist swam
before him. For a moment everything was blotted out
by a mad terror. If his limbs had not been so heavy
he would have sprtmg out of the window — ^run home —
anywhere from that rising gale of laughter — from
those dead eyes — from that cruel mouth
He was lost. It had always been just "the Em-
<«T J^-»i. 1 ^ 99
'I don't know
Suddenly it was quiet Nobody laughed any more.
They were watching the man seated at the desk. There
was a look of horror — smug, childishly feigned — on
the round faces. They waited as for something at
once terrible and delicious.
"It gives me pleasure, Herr Helmut Felde, to find
that there is something left for me to teach you."
The voice unsheathed itself. "You are a fool — a
half-wit I do not tolerate half-wits in my class. Un-
derstand that If the dear God shapes tfiem without
brains I reshape them. I shall reshape you — ^at any
cost Now sit down. I am going to begin."
Helmut slipped back into his seat His desk tow-
ered over him, but it was not big enough to hide him.
There was nothing in the world big enough to hide
him. And yet he was so small — so lost
"Von Priitwitz — ^begin line forty-two— to line
sixty-two " the voice commanded dispassionately.
TOWARDS MORNING 49
The bell clanged. They began to troop out of the
class-room, two by two, in order and without noise.
Helmut came last of all. He was giddy and breath-
less as though he had been beaten physically and as
he passed under the dull all-seeing eyes he stumbled.
The eyes made note of the stumble. They wrote it
down where it would not be forgotten.
"Frightened? Good. We will frighten the fright
out of you."
The playground was stone-paved and grey. Ex-
cept for the one inquisitive tree and the forest green
that shone distantly through the bars of the iron gates
there was no touch of colour. Even the sunlight had
the wan pallor of captivity.
A man stood in the middle of the square and swung
a hand-bell. He did it negligently — rather contemp-
tuously. Nobody seemed to notice him. He was huge
and broad-shouldered — ^unlike any of the other mas-
ters. For one thing he was not dressed like them. A
velvet jacket and a flowing tie took the place of the
rigid, tightly buttoned frock-coat and his brown beard
and leonine head of hair added to his strangeness. Al-
together there was something laughable and yet free
about him — like a scarecrow fluttering its ragged in-
dependence among a flock of orderly young sheep.
Helmut kept close to the school-house wall. He
dared not look at any one. He was still trying to
hide, but out here it was more than ever impossible.
His class-mates eddied about him. They peered into
his face, at first inquisitively, and then as they felt his
shrinking terror with a wsJdng, surging love of tor-
ment. But as yet it was inarticulate. Kurt Kohler,
so TOWARDS MORNING
standing square and dominating inside the circle, gave
them their lead.
''You did make a fool of yourself, I must say. A
pretty thing for me to have — ^a half-wit — for a cousin."
"A half-wit ! A half-wit!"
They pounced on the cry like a pack of hounds.
"Who's the German Emperor ?"
"He doesn't know !"
"He doesn't know !"
They made a circle round him. Sharpening their
first-fingers at him with their ancient gesture of mock-
ery, they began to dance.
"Atch! Atch! Atch! He doesn't know! He
The monotonous inflection of their shrill young
voices fell like a lash, striking again and again on the
same raw, aching wound. But he held out Some-
where in the depths of him he found a patience that
could endure pain. It was Kurt who hurt too much.
Kurt did not dance with the rest He stood and
stared down at Helmut, his arms folded, his pale
heavy-lidded eyes full of gratified malice. He had
looked like that when Heini had been thrown into
the fire. He looked like the Geheimrat
Helmut's scattered senses focussed on him. They
sprang to recollection and the old unforgotten wrong
leaped up from its hiding place. He began to trem-
ble. And his own trembling terrified him. It was
the first whisper of a storm that he could not stand
against For even then he knew dimly of something
that slumbered tmder his timidity and patience —
TOWARDS MORNING 51
something incalculable and uncalculating — a master-
"Please — ^please,. Kurt, don't tease me/' he pleaded.
"Atch! Atch! Atch! He doesn't know "
"You leave me alone, Kurt."
"I'm not speaking to you. I'm not looking at you,
am I ? I wouldn't touch you — ^beastly little half-wit !"
The storm had him between its teeth and shook him
off his feet. Like a yoimg bull, head down, he charged
into the jeering figure which went over before him
with the sudden completeness of a ninepin. The tri-
tunph was short-lived. The pack hurled itself upon
the conqueror. Blows and kicks rained upon him.
He felt none of them. He went Berserk, tearing,
screaming, struggling, imtil suddenly the whirlwind
dropped him and he stood alone, panting and wild-
eyed in the midst of a sullen silence.
"You young demons! Have you no sense of de-
cency? One against twenty! Pfui! Clear off — the
lot of you — to your business !"
They slunk away like puppies whipped oflF an ille-
gitimate bone and the big man and the little boy re-
mained alone, looking at one another. Helmut's rage
had left him. He still trembled, but now it was with
cold and shame and wretchedness.
"What is your name, Kleine ?"
"Helmut— Helmut Felde, Herr Lehrer."
"Bless you — I'm not a Herr Lehrer, God be praised.
I'm Herr Heilig. I'm usher and ring the bell and
see that you don't behave too much like little boys.
Why did you fly at young Kohler like that?"
"He — he had made fun of me."
"Well — ^you are rather a comical little object. But
what was the real cause?"
52 TOWARDS MORNING
"I said — I told the Herr Lehrer — I didn't know the
A mufHed roar came from behind the tawny beard.
The giant shook with laughter.
"And they found that funny? No, my son, I don't
believe it. They weren't amused. They writhed. It
was hysterics following on a severe nervous shock.
Helmut Felde, you're not going to add to all your
other sins by crying, are you?"
The child looked up into the twinkling hazel eyes
and choked back a sob.
"Fine. I was afraid you might — ^and that would
have been an anti-climax. A young devil like you
ought to go to the gallows smiling. There — I won't
tease you. I ought to make you drill or do something
else you don't want to, but I'll let you off this time.
Got a handkerchief?"
Helmut searched wildly round the belt of his over-
all where that symbol of civilisation was supposed
It's gone, Herr Heilig."
'Well, there's mine. Wipe your face with it.
Don't you let things get a hold of you, my son. Fight
'em off. If they get too much for you you come along
to me. I like you. A fellow of your age who doesn't
know the Emperor's name must be something out of
the ordinary. Must have a touch of genius."
"Yes, Herr Heilig."
"But don't you get puflfed up about it. And for
heaven's sake don't boast about it There's nothing
they'll like less in this establishment. If you've got
any more things you don't know of that nature you
keep them for me. Understand?"
TOWARDS MORNING 53
"Yes, Herr HeiUg/'
"Then run along."
Helmut did not run. He went slowly, not know-
ing quite where to go. His late assailants had fallen
into groups and were playing in a bored, desultory
fashion, but at least they took no further notice of
him. Kurt had vanished altogether. Helmut thought
of the squirrel and the shining tree. Its shadow was
already occupied, but now his fear of isolation smoth-
ered his fear of mockery. Besides, these two boys
had taken no part in the attack. The one sat tailor-
fashion, his head in his hands, a book between his
knees, whilst his companion stood by his side and
munched a Butterbrdtchen, eyeing Helmut dispassion-
ately but not unkindly.
"Are you the chap that knocked Kohler over ?"
"Yes. I — I suppose so."
"You ought to know. What's your name?"
"Mine's von Priitwitz. This is Schultz. New,
"Beastly place. You'll hate it"
Helmut drew nearer, like a timid young animal. A
faint after-gust of the storm sent the blood to the
roots of his fair hair.
"I hate it now," he said slowly. "I hate every one
here. They're cruel — ^all of them — they laughed —
it was unkind — I wouldn't have laughed."
"I expect they only did it to please old Sheepshanks.
It puts him in a good temper and takes up time." Von
Priitwitz brushed the crumbs off his overall with a
54 TOWARDS MORNING
hand that was like a girl's in its shapely whiteness.
"I hate it too, of course. We all do. But it's got
to be gone through. They make us learn and we've
got to learn."
"I don't want to learn," Helmut muttered fiercely.
"I want to do as I like."
The boy considered him thoughtfully.
"YovL can't do that," he said. "Nobody can. And
of course you've got to learn. If you don't you won't
get through your Einjdhrige's exam, and then where
will you be? Besides you won't get on — ^you won't
be of any use. You'll be a failure."
Helmut did not answer. A dull, tired feeling came
over him. It was as though he had been struggling
for a long time with some one who held him tight and
repeated the same thing to him over and over again.
And now he couldn't struggle any more. He looked
wonderingly at the boy standing opposite him. He
was not like any of the boys he had played and worked
with in the Kindergarten. He was so much older.
He talked like a man who knew, who had thought
and come to a decision. Even in his bearing there
was something composed, settled. And he was good
to look at, too — ^with his small aquiline features and
transparent skin and steel blue eyes that returned Hel-
mut's gaze so calmly.
"What's your father?"
"An official — ^in the Stadtamt."
"Mine was an officer. A Captain in the Kolonie
Truppen. He was Kuirassier first of all, but he changed
over. He wanted to fight. And he was killed out in
West Africa— chasing Hereros. He would have been
a general in time. All of us have been generals."
"Oh!" said Helmut He felt that to be an Amt-
TOWARDS MORNING 55
schreiber was to be as grey and dull as the courtyard.
He almost wished his father had been killed. "I
s'ppose you'll be a soldier too V he asked timidly.
"Of course. I was to have gone into a Cadet School
but I wasn't strong enough. They grill you there, I
can tell you. But I'm getting on now. In another ten
years I shall be an ensign — in a line regiment We're
beastly poor, you know. But it doesn't matter. There'll
be a war perhaps and I'll do something big. Like my
grandfather. He was at Gravelotte and led the
charge. I am to have his sword." A sudden flush
rose up under his fair skin. "If only war doesn't
come too soon — ^before I'm grown up. It's that I'm
so afraid of."
There was a real emotion in his voice — a real fear.
Helmut thought suddenly — ^he did not know why —
of the Geheimrat and of Heini slipping into the flames.
"I'd hate to kill people," he stammered.
" or be killed," von Priitwitz laughed. "One
doesn't think of it like that," he went on impatiently.
"It's the glory — ^the fighting— one man against an-
other — ^you or him — ^and every man you strike down
is something done for your King — for your country.
You prove what you're made of. You prove you're
a man. How can you prove that in a stuffy office "
The boy Schultz lifted his head.
"I wish to God you wouldn't talk!" he burst out
hoarsely. "I can't think with you going on like that.
I can't get this into my head. I — I can't fix it. I don't
know what'U happen. Oh, for God's sake — shut up."
He looked about him wildly and his face struck
cold, unreasoning fear into Helmut's heart. It was
old and fat and shapeless. The features lost them-
selves in white puffy flesh that fell into creases be-
56 TOWARDS MORNING
neath the eyes that were so absurdly, horribly young.
They fixed themselves at last on Helmut but Helmut
felt they did not see him. "Oh, for God's sake —
how does it go
'Die schonen Tagen von Aranjuez sind nun su
ende ' ''
His head went down into his hands again.
Von Priitwitz shrugged his shoulders.
"Poor old Schultz. He's in a bad way. He's afraid
they won't give him his remove — ^and they won't
either. He can't stand the grind here. One has to
be tough — or — oh, well — ^time's up anyhow "
Herr Heilig stood in the middle of the courtyard,
and swung his bell. The little groups came together
instantly, forming into double file.
"I like himr said Hebnut "He's kind."
"Oh, Heilig?" Von Priitwitz's tone was cold but
respectful. "Yes, he's all right. He paints pictures.
He just does this to help out. They say he's a social
democrat or something mad like tiiat. But he's an
artist so it doesn't matter. Come on, Schultz."
The boy seated on the ground looked up. His lips
were still moving soundlessly. He lurched to his feet,
holding to his companion's arm. It seemed as though
his legs were not strong enough to bear the swollen-
''Die schonen Tagen von Aranjuez ''
"Oh, God— how does it go then ?"
"We've got to hurry," von Priitwitz retorted.
"Never mind old Schiller."
Helmut lingered. He was looking at the iron gates
and at the green trees beyond. They lured him —
tempted him. His heart beat in frantic tumult He
couldn't go back — ^not into that dull cold class-room —
TOWARDS MORNING 57
not to that man who jeered at him — ^not to those piti-
less, staring faces. He didn't want to learn — ^he
wanted to go out into the woods and play with
Schnautzchen — ^and be free. They said one couldn't
be free. It wasn't true. He had been free. And
freedom was out there — ^beyond the gates. Only one
had to go now — ^now before they caught you
A hand touched him and he almost screamed — so
real had the shapeless "they" been to his imagination.
It was only Schultz. He had come back. His pitiful
face was quite close to Helmut's. But the eyes were
no longer vague and unseeing.
"No," he said quietly. "It's no good. They're
locked. Always. They keep them locked. One can't
get out— €ver." His voice dropped to a whisper. "I
know — I've tried."
The bell rang more urgently. They had to run to
get into the school-house in time.
There was no mystery about the door now. You
rang a bell and some one upstairs pulled a lever at-
tached to a strong wire and the door opened. The
Geheimrat had been quite right about it
There were no fairies.
Helmut crept up the stairs, lingering on each step.
The stairs were dark and in the darkness he was hid-
den. He cowered away from the thought of light
and of faces and people questioning him. Then they
would find out that he made Kurt's nose bleed and
that he was a half-wit
His mother opened the door for him and there was
S8 TOWARDS MORNING
Schnautzchen lying on the mat, waiting. But
Schnautzchen knew that to-day was different from
other days. He did not bark or caper in a gallant
travesty of youth. He followed heavily into the din-
"Well, Helmut?" He did not answer and she took
ofif the bright yellow cap of the lower-fifth and ran
her hand with a caress over the close-cropped head.
'^Why — ^you're going to be a real man, Helmut."
She helped him to unstrap the square knapsack and
to unpack his books. There were ten of them and he
laid diem out separately on the table and looked at
them. He had got to take everything that was in-
side those dull covers and squeeze it into his head.
And his head ached now — as though it were pressed
full to over-flowing.
"Well— Helmut— can't you speak?"
And suddenly he turned on her and there was a
quavering note of hysteria in his boy's voice.
"And shall I never play again. Mother?"
For the moment they stared at each other. There
was an aghast look on the woman's pale, dull face.
She turned away as though there were something in
his eyes that she could not meet.
"You must be a man, Helmut," she said quietly.
"Life isn't a game."
So he knew that he was not to play again and soon
he understood why. There was no time. Life was
work. Work from eight o'clock in the morning till
five o'clock at night. Work at home, trying to placate
the contemptuous mocking of those lightless brown
eyes. Work under the bed-clothes when the light was
out, piecing together tags of half-digested knowledge.
TOWARDS MORNING 59
Piano lessons at the conscrvatorium on the one half-
holiday. An hour's practice when an hour could be
found. On Saturday night preparation for Pastor
Kleister's Scripture class.
It did not matter that every one in the town knew
that Pastor Kleister believed neither in God nor devil.
It did not make the chapter of the Old Testament (to
be learnt by heart) one verse the less.
At first he flung himself against the bars. "Why
can't I play — why — why?" he asked. But after a
little he ceased to question and in a little while again
he forgot that he had ever played.
He was ten when he found out that life wasn't a
Fritz Schnautzchen waited patiently for his play-
mate. But he never came. Aiid Schnautzchen grew
But there was a feast day. On that day in the
term the school closed. One did not play, it is true,
but the grey monotony was broken with light and
music. The tension tightened but now with a kind
of fierce joyfulness. It was as though one had come
suddenly quite near to the answer to all one's ques-
tioning and that it was a glowing, fiery answer.
The evening before, the Herr Oberlehrer gave them
an address. Helmut had never seen him like that be-
fore. There was a white heat about him — an inward
illumination of the whole man which shone through
the dull brown eyes and gave them splendid life.
"To-morrow is a day on which you must reconsider
yourselves, your position, your duty. You must fix
in your mind the knowledge of the immense and glo-
rious whole to which you belong — to which you must
give ever)rthing — ^if need be — ^your life. Thereafter
you will be better able to understand your task — ^to
bend yourselves to it with a greater will "
And Helmut knew then that there was a bond be-
tween him and the man whom he hated which could
never be broken.
There were flags out in the Kaiserstrasse — ^the yel-
low and red of Baden — ^the red, white and black of
TOWARDS MORNING 6i
the Empire. The streets sparkled with bright col-
ours. The officers wore their gala uniforms — ^plumed
helmets, short jackets with gold-braided collars, shin-
ing high boots. The thrilling whisper of spurs and
sabres played a soft accompaniment to the brazen
chorus of the bands as they came at the head of their
regiments — ^pouring into the town like shining rivers
into a hke.
Helmut and Schultz and Von Priitwitz met outside
the latter's home — ^a high, violently ornate Etagenhaus
in the Karlstrasse — ^and then ran as fast as their legs
would carry them. They were very late. Schultz
had arrived ten minutes after time. He had had a bad
night, he said, and his head hurt
"It's that beastly fourth prop. I can't get clear,"
he panted. 'T keep on doing it over and over again —
in my mind."
The Schlossplatz was black with crowds when they
arrived. The people wedged in between the houses
and the wall of troops could not lift their hands and
at first it seemed a hopeless business. Then von
Priitwitz recognised a brother-officer as he called him,
a merry-faced youth who laughed and escorted them
across the road to a perfect vantage point between two
immense Grenadiers. Just behind them stood Herr
Heilig, more scarecrowish than ever, his soft hat at a
rakish angle, his hands plunged in the pockets of his
They lifted their yellow caps solemnly, and he nod-
ded back to them, smiling.
'Good morning, children— come to see the show?"
'Jawohl, Herr Heilig !" they answered in chorus.
But there was something about his smile that they
did not understand.
62 TOWARDS MORNING
It was quite still now. The bands were silent The
troops in their places. Everywhere you looked you
saw the flash of steel. In front of the Schloss stood
the Commanding General of the District. You picked
him out from the midst of a glittering staff by the red
Revets of his grey overcoat.
The hush deepened. It was as though every one
in that vast concourse held their breath. Then a
deep rasping voice broke upon the stillness.
"Seine Kaiserliche Majestdt — er lebe, hoch!"
From ten thousand men's throats came the answer.
''Hoch! Hoch! Hochr
Each cheer fell short and hard like a great blow.
The massed bands clashed out together.
"Heil dir im Siegenkranz '*
The Grenadier regiment swung out of its square —
ten deep they poured past the saluting base — ^parade
step — ^their officers with lowered swords at the head of
each company — ^they came on like rolling thunder —
like a torrent. They were not men — ^not soldiers.
They were one body moving at the behest of one mind
— 2l body elemental and monstrous and human and a
mind of a soulless, terrible god.
They shook the earth under their feet
Helmut clenched his hands. The tears stung his
eyes. Shock after shock of strange, delirious excite-
ment, half joy, half terror, ran through his nerves.
He could have screamed, and his body was wet with
perspiration. He looked up suddenly, for Herr Heilig
had taken a step forward. He was leaning over Hel-
mut, his face red and swollen with a rush of blood.
His eyes, staring from under knit brows, dropped al-
most instantly to answer the boy's gaze and their hard-
ness broke, letting through the old humour. But it
TOWARDS MORNING 63
had become a trifle wry — sl trifle bitter. He shook
himself like a big dog.
"The Juggernaut makes us dance, doesn't it, Hel-
mut?" he said. "And one day we shall throw our-
selves under the wheels — ^singing "
Helmut did not tmderstand. He had never heard of
a Juggernaut At that moment Schultz jogged at
"Look at the bayonets — ^they shine like — ^like
needles. H one stuck them into a man's body do you
think it would hurt? I mean, badly, like my head, or
would it kill at once? One could twist it round in
the wound, like this, and then "
He made a gesture. He was strangely, horribly
It was over. The great black crowd broke up into
particles that meandered peacefully homeward or
straggled into the cafes and tempting Conditoreis. The
three boys scarcely spoke. Even cakes, piled high with
cream, could not rouse them from the queer tired-
ness which had come over them. They dragged their
feet They could easily have quarrelled. It was as
though they had been worked up and up to a crisis
and that the crisis had not come. A circle had not
been completed. Something had been withheld. They
did not know what it was, but the lack of it made them
morose and nervous.
At the top of the Karlstrasse they met another
cortege. It was led by three students on horseback.
They were clad in mediaeval costume with ostrich
plumed caps, thigh boots and velvet coats. They car-
64 TOWARDS MORNING
ried drawn swords and the colours of their order.
Behind them came a stream of carriages filled with
students and more carriages still, packed with old gen-
tlemen wearing the tri-colour ribbon across their
breasts and the gay cap of their youth on their grey
Then three more riders bearing other colours and
"The Corps and Burschenschaf ten hold their Kaiser
Komers together to-night," Schultz said. "I was to
have gone. My father's an alte Herr of the Friesens.
But I can't get my work done '*
"There's my father!" cried Helmut suddenly.
"There — ^in the third carriage — ^now — ^he's look-
It was the Herr Amtschreiber right enough. He
sat very grave and upright between two old gentle-
men, his cap a little over one ear, his coat thrown
open to show the ribbon. As he saw the three chil-
dren standing on the curb he lifted his cap with a
flourish and they lifted theirs respectfully.
Never had the Herr Amtschreiber seemed so bright
and clear and definite.
"My father was third Qiargierter when he was ac-
tive," Helmut said breathlessly. "He's got a cut right
across the head — from his first Mensur — ^he showed it
to me "
"Students are all right," von Prutwitz observed dis
passionately — "especially if they're in a good corps.
Even a Burschenschaft can be pretty decent, I believe.
But they go into business or an office afterwards.
It's not like being an officer "
The little glow of glory went out.
"Oh, no, of course not," said Helmut sighing.
TOWARDS MORNING 65
Schultz gave a queer laugh.
"Do you know, I don't believe I shall be either/*
The glory came again that night Helmut sat with
his mother on the raised dais and looked over the
huge Fest-Halle. The uniforms of the students who
moved hither and thither among the long tables danced
before his eyes like the colours of a kaleidoscope. The
chink of beer glasses and the hum of voices wove
themselves into a hunting symphony which died away
when the band struck up and a swinging student's
song thundered exuberantly to the rafters.
Helmut joined in too, holding tightly to his song-
"Gai4deafnus Igitur '*
He did not know what it meant But it made him
so happy that he could have cried. He forgot all
the lessons that he had left behind and that he would
never, never imderstand. Everything was lost in fire
and colour. He looked up into his mother's face,
smiling. Frau Felde, very red and earnest, sang with
all her might.
At the cross table at the head of the hall sat the
first Chargierten of all the Corps and Burschenschaf-
ten, a prince from the reigning house, old generals
in full uniform. And there at one of the side tables
was the Herr Amtschreiber. He sat among all the
young men and drank with them and laughed with
them. When he saw Helmut and his mother he waved
his cap and lifted his glass.
66 TOWARDS MORNING
And Frau Felde lifted her glass and drank back and
She too seemed to have grown more vivid, as though
life in her had suddenly begun to bum strong and
And it was so still that Helmut thought he heard
his own heart beating. The first Chargierter of the
presiding Corps stood up in his place, his drawn sword
lying on the table. At first Helmut could not hear
what he said, but as his young voice accustomed it-
self to the vast hall, the words rang out sharp and
" but it's not the man only we honour. Bound
as we are to him by personal oath — by a personal al-
legiance which has its root in the most splendid hour
of our history, we yet know that it is not that alone
which holds us^-claims our endeavour — our life. It
is not the Emperor as man, but the Emperor as
Germany who commands us. And who is Grermany?
He is our father. We are his sons. Each one of us —
the least and the greatest — ^bears the glorious burden
of sonship on his shoulders. But the Emperor bears
the greatest burden of all: He is the chosen heir.
He leads us forward — ^across the seas to new lands,
new victories. When the smouldering envy and hatred
of effete peoples burst into flame he will lead us over
them till they are trampled into ashes. We shall carry
our banners over the world.
"For that hour we live. We are one people. The
old individualism is dead. We no longer live for our-
selves, for our families, for our city or our provino
we live for Germany. We have no other life."
TOWARDS MORNING 67
He stopped suddenly. There was no sound. "Gen-
tlemen, I call upon you to rub a salamander in honour
of our Emperor "
They rose to their feet like one man.
The glasses were raised high and emptied to the
They were lowered swiftly.
^^Eins, zwei, drei!"
The glasses rumbled on the table with the noise of
The band caught up on the last crash.
'^Germany — Germany before all!''
And Helmut sang as though his life depended on
their hearing his shrill young voice. His heart grew
big and hot within him. He saw the Herr Amtschrei-
ber and that he was singing too, holding himself
straight and fine like a soldier.
"Even Priitwitz would know we were all right if
he could see us now/' Helmut thought.
And presently the Herr Amtschreiber came up on
to the platform. He carried little bunches of flowers
—one for every lady invited by his Verbindung. The
best of all he kept for the Geheimratin. He made
her a deep bow, with his hand on his heart and every
one laughed. They had never seen him so gallant —
For a moment he stood at Helmut's side, blinking
over his glasses.
"That was beautiful — ^beautiful, wasn't it?" he said
softly. "In such a moment one understands why one
is alive "
68 TOWARDS MORNING
It was not like sleep. There was no sweet sinking
into forgetfulness. He could not close his eyes, try-
as he would. He could not turn them away. The
pageant went on and on — cavalry and foot, generals
on horseback, brave banners and tossing plumes, riv-
ers of steel — brazen music, thunder of voices — ^all pass-
ing from darkness into light and into darkness again.
He kept on saying :
"I'm so tired. Can't I go to sleep ever?"
And his father answered:
" Now we understand why we are alive, little
In reality Helmut was fast asleep. He did not hear
Frau Felde open the front door. He did not hear the
Herr Amtschreiber drag his feet along the passage.
And the Herr Amtschreiber was not trying to move
quietly. He did not care who heard him. He cared
neither for God nor man. His battered student's cap
was at the back of his head, faded bunches of flowers
in his button hole — ^sticking out of his pockets. He
went shuffling along into the sitting-room, singing
under his breath — leaving a trail of smoke and wine
fumes behind him.
"You are mad, my child —
You must go to Berlin.
That's where the lunatics come from."
sang the Herr Amtschreiber.
Frau Felde closed the door in an agony of fear.
"Oh, Hermann — ^if any one heard you — ^if any one
saw you "
TOWARDS MORNING 69
He laughed and flung up his arms.
"Who cares? I — I've had a g-gcx)d time. Jolly
f-fellows — all sorts of jolly — fellows — no nonsense
about them — said I was a jolly fine fellow too a —
a real German — ^we're to wipe up the world between
us — French and English and Russian — dirty monkeys
the lot of them — ^just wipe them up — I — ^like that "
The little Herr Amtschreiber made a sweeping ges-
ture that nearly carried him off his feet
'Oh, Hermann — for God's sake "
'Well — ^w-what's the matter? What you crjring
for? I'm — drunk. Of course I'm drunk. W-what
do you think I'm drunk for? I'm drunk to be free —
to do what I like — ^I'd push in my Herr Bureau-Chef's
ugly face if he was here — ^I'd spit in his eye — ^that's
w-what I'm dnmk for — not so much of tiiis damn
fear of everything
"We Germans fear G-God and nothing else — ^we're
supermen — ^blond beasts — and we can't smack a man's
The Herr Amtschreiber lurched and then was sick,
pitifully, helplessly sick.
' She said nothing. She helped him into his chair
before the fire and fetched hot water and bathed his
hands and face and the soiled waistcoat. He was
quiet now— drowsy as an exhausted child. He had
lost his glasses and his round, short-sighted blue eyes
blinked wistfully at her.
"You — ^you won't let me be late for office, Clar-
"No— of course not. It would never do."
He fell asleep instantly.
She sat beside him, her hand on his, upright, ex-
pressionless* waiting for the grey morning.
It rained so that the black mourning pines that
shadowed the Gasthaus zur Hundseck on three sides
were just a memoiy. The drenching mist rolled be-
tween, white and soundless, muffling the rare foot-
step, the very drip of the water-laden branches to an
intangible whisper. Sometimes it lightened — ^as though
behind it some one were moving about with a lantern,
searching for shelter — ^then darkened again hopelessly.
A little group of people stood in the porch and drank
their after-lunch coffee and were facetiously pessimis-
tic after the manner of their race.
"This is nothing to what it can do," one of the men
declared, "and moreover it can go on doing it for
days and nights together."
"To think we left England for this!" a feminine
voice answered. "An English drizzle is hope com-
pared with it."
"Do you believe that out over there are valleys and
mountains and more motmtains — right to the end of
"No, I don't. I believe there is an abyss and if I
took three steps forward I should fall straight into
"How deadly quiet — ^and boring. What on earth
are we to do with ourselves ?"
Some one yawned.
TOWARDS MORNING 71
"Might hire a conveyance and run down to Baden-
Baden and make a night of it"
"It won't be much of a run — three hours' tug."
"Who cares? Better than sitting here — Fm damp
to the skin already."
"What's that? Something's coming — ^look— over
They laughed at the mock excitement, but were
bored enough to turn in the direction which the girl
indicated. Some one was actually coming — more than
just "some one." The subdued shuffling of many feet
reached them long before the mist broke into shadows
that came pouring in ghostly procession to the doors
of the Gasthaus.
"What on earth are they? Gnomes? There are
gnomes in the Black Forest. Cook's swore there were."
"Oh, hush! We mustn't laugh — ^if they're gnomes
it might annoy them."
A waiter, collecting coffee-cups, offered obsequious
"The three lower classes from the Karlstadt Gym-
nasium, on their yearly holiday," he said.
"School-boys? And so solemn 1 And those funny
"Only Germans could think of caps like that."
"Can you imagine English boys carrying umbrel-
The under-fifth gazed stolidly at the foreigners.
Their round young faces were expressionless and yet
their expressionlessness conveyed a dull dislike and dis-
trust. Some one hidden in the mist shouted an order
and the umbrellas were lowered and stacked like rifles.
The children stood motionless and silent in double file.
'JT, TOWARDS MORNING
"Good Lord — ^young Germany and no mistake!"
"TheyVe not children. They can't be. They're
little old men.'*
The girl who had first seen the new arrivals pressed
her companion's arm.
"Hush ! They may understand. They look so wise
— as though they knew everything — and — ^and so pa-
The Herr Oberlehrer Schafer loomed out of the mist
with Herr Heilig at his heels. His face was set and
dark and he pushed through the little knot of strangers
insolently — ^as though he had not seen them. But he
had heard them. He heard a man's voice remark
behind him :
"Well — ^they don't teach manners at that school any-
"Of course not They'd think it effeminate."
The Herr Oberlehrer turned to his companion.
"Damned English pigs ! What do they want here ?
Why do they come.** They contaminate our forests
as diey contaminate our national life. They brought
their filthy vices to Baden-Baden. Isn't that enough?
Have we got to put up with their infernal insolent
patronage and laughter even in our holy of holies!"
He spoke loudly. His rasping voice reached the
silent children who stood stiffly at the long tables,
awaiting their orders. Heilig shook the rain off his
long Loden overcoat.
"The English are a critical race," he observed coolly,
"and they have an immense sense of humour. They
can't help seeing the comic in everything."
"You call that a sense of humour? To laugh at
sacred things? The English would laugh at Christ
TOWARDS MORNING n
on the crucifix. Or perhaps you would excuse
"Certainly not In the meantime they have only
laughed at us. And perhaps we are funny. I often
think so myself.''
"A German who makes a jest of his country is a
Heilig rubbed his untidy beard and twinkled good-
"Hadn't we better begin, Herr Oberlehrer? The
coffee will be getting cold."
His superior made no answer. He sat down with
a peremptory gesture which opened forty neat little
parcels and set forty hungry mouths to work. The
children ate almost in silence, with rare gusts of whis-
perings and irrepressible boyish scufHings. And after
each gust they threw sidelong glances at the two men
at the head of the table. They looked at the Herr
Oberlehrer with fear but at Herr Heilig with dis-
trust — with unchildish disapproval. He was a traitor.
The Oberlehrer had said as much. A traitor — ^a man
who could laugh at sacred things — at Germany
They could hear the English voices in the corridor
outside— calling instructions — laughing. The place
might have belonged to them. The Herr Oberlehrer
sat back, his fists clenched on the table.
"Come, children, we will give these English a song
before we go — ^a German song — ^we will show them
that German boys aren't afraid of rain— or of them
of anything on earth —
^awohl, Herr Oberlehrer!" they shouted.
They sang the 'Wacht am Rhein," and "Deutsch-
land-Deutschland iiber alles." Their eyes fixed on the
man's dark and bitter face they sang shrilly, trucu-
74 TOWARDS MORNING
lently. The songs of defence and love rang with ag-
gression and hate. It was as though they drew venom
from some secret source.
The Oberlehrer conducted with his clenched fist
"How jolly it sounds," the English girl said as she
stepped into the closed carriage. "The Germans are
so musical "
Five minutes later just as liie Baden-Baden expedi-
tion started on its way the under-fifth came pouring
out of the Gasthaus. Discipline had been relaxed.
They straggled across the road, they eddied uncer-
tainly round the slowly moving carriage, peering in at
Suddenly Kurt Kohler jabbed his umbrella savagely
at the girl seated in the far comer. The man next her
laughed and catching hold of the umbrella-point gave
the aggressor a playful poke which sent him tumbling
back from the step into the silent, unlaughing crowd.
'Mischievous young devil!"
'Well. I'm glad there is a bit of fun in them !" the
girl said "Did you see that boy standing on the bank
— such a pretty little fellow — ^and so serious. Do you
think they ever laugh ?"
"Perhaps it's verhoten'' her companion suggested.
"At any rate they're allowed to cry."
From the distance came the sotmd of Kurt Kohler
The three boys had climbed to the highest point
of the moimtain where a half -ruined Roman tower
kept watch over the Rhine valley. It was still rain-
TOWARDS MORNING 75
ing. They crq)t into the shelter of a broken archway
and huddled together from the driving mist.
Von Priitwitz commanded their adventure. He al-
ways commanded. No one quite understood why he
accepted the companionship of the two dullest chil-
dren in the school. It was partly perhaps because they
accepted him so simply — so reverently. He was their
bright and steadfast star — ^the one firm rock in their
small tottering universe. And he was not domineer-
ing or cruel— only radiantly self-assured. He was not
even afraid of tihe masters.
He was going to be an officer, and compared to him
school-masters were small fry.
Helmut, who had not eaten all his dinner, divided
out the remnants, and they munched for a little while
in silence. The enveloping mist gave them a thrilling
sense of mystery and loneliness. Schultz pointed down
into the twisting, wreathing clouds of smoke and his
"Anything — ^anything might come up out of that!"
"Fairies !" said Helmut, "the bad ones "
"Or the English," von Priitwitz caught up a broken
branch and set it to his shoulder like a rifle. "Let's
pretend they're trying to storm our castle. There they
come — ^up the hill. Aha, you see that fine fellow?
Bang! There — ^head-over-heels ! Dead as a door-
"I hate the English," said Helmut solemnly.
Von Priitwitz picked off another assailant.
"So do I — ^professionally. One can't fight if one
doesn't hate. And as we're going to fight them we
can't start hating them too soon. But they're rather
decent fellows, I believe. My uncle admires them
76 TOWARDS MORNING
frightfully. It'll be a ripping war if only it doesn't
come off before I'm grown up."
"Anyhow I couldn't help being pleased when they
poked Kurt in the chest — ^he's such a beast. All the
masters like him. At home they're always telling him
how clever and splendid he is. They're ashamed of
'Kurt cheats," Schultz muttered. "I've seen him."
Von Priitwitz shrugged his shoulders.
"Everybody knows. The masters know. They
think it's rather smart. But it's silly to cheat. It's
pretending you know something you don't know.
Sooner or later you're bound to be found out, and the
later it is the worse it is. Supposing I pretend I
know how to aim a gun and always get the calcula-
tions from some one else. Then when the war comes
I try to blow up an English battery and hit our first
line trenches instead. It's idiotic. You've got to know
to be efficient, or you're no good to anybody."
There was a silence. Schultz sat with his white
face between his hands staring down at an ant-heap
among the pine-needles. The ceaseless, passionate
hurrying of its inmates seemed to exercise a strange
fascination over him.
"I never know," he said at last "I never know
anything. I don't know why it is. A thing looks
easy enough at first, and then when I try to do it, it
sort of slips away. I can't get hold of it, and my head
hurts as though it were too full, and the stuff was
trying to burst out of my ears."
"And I think I know until I get into class," Hel-
mut said, "and then when Sheepshanks looks at me
it — it just goes. Sometimes I wish he would kill me,
and then it would be over."
TOWARDS MORNING 77
Schultz nodded gravely.
"Yes — then it would be over."
He had discovered a large party of ants at some
distance from their ant-heap. They were trying to
carry a twig several hundred times larger than them-
selves. Schultz dug a deep trench round them with
"You oughtn't to be frightened/' von Priitwitz said,
still busy with his invisible Englishmen, "Germans are
not afraid of any one except God — ^that's what Bis-
"Who is God?"
They were silent again. It was as though the sud-
den question touched something vital in all three of
them. Von Priitwitz let his rifle drop.
"I don't know. I don't believe any one does. Of
course there's nothing in all that Bible stuff. No one
believes in that now — not even old Kleister. He hardly
pretends to. He has to stick to his screw like every
one else. He knows it's all a fairy story. He said as
"You mean, he doesn't believe in God— or — or in
Von Priitwitz lifted his proud young head with a
"Why, he hates Christ! You can hear it in his
voice. He hates all that talk about humanity and
forgiveness and submission. And he's right too. It's
all rot and himibug. We aren't humble — ^and humility
is sickly anyhow — and we forgive just as much or as
little as we feel inclined. And submission is cowardly.
No man who is a man submits unless he's got to. We
despise men who give in. You look round you and
you'll see that's true. It's been two thousand years of
78 TOWARDS MORNING
humbug. And some of us have got to go on pretending
because it's an easy way of making a living — ^like
Kleister. But even Kleister only sticks to it by pre-
tending Christ is Siegfried and God Wotan — good old
fighting German Gods! When he talks of them he
warms up. You feel he means something."
'It's no good my praying to Wotan," said Schultz
under his breath. "Only the great warriors go to
"Don't you believe in anything, Priitwitz?" Hel-
mut asked shyly.
The boy did not answer for a minute.
"I'm not certain yet. One has to work these things
out for oneself or it's no good. I think about it though,
and one day I shall make up my mind. Perhaps it's
as some people say: God is just everything, what
we call life — the trees and animals — the earth — ^and
us. Where we're sitting now, perhaps some German
died thousands of years ago. Perhaps this handful
of dirt is — is him. When I am buried on a battle-
field I shall become dust Uke that too. Perhaps that's
being immortal. So when we are fighting for our
country, it's fighting for God — our God."
"Then there are ever so many gods in the world?"
"Our God is the greatest," Priitwitz answered. "We
must make him God of gods."
A gust of wind shook the invisible pine-trees so that
they sighed sadly among themselves. The mist eddied
and swayed and suddenly thinned like a worn and
tattered shroud. And through the jagged rent they
looked down upon a world of valley and mountain
lying in a pale flood of sunshine. The valley shone
like an emerald snake between the dark mountains
that rolled on and on till they met the clouds.
TOWARDS MORNING 79
And Heinrich von Priitwitz leapt up and tossed his
cap into the air.
"Long live our dear Lord God !" he shouted. "Long
life to Him r
His shrill boy's voice echoed through the muffled
silence. He stood with his arms stretched above his
head in exultant salutation.
But his companions huddled close together.
"I don't think I want to believe in God," Helmut
brooded. "It's no good having a God one hates. And
God must be a beast He made people like old Sheep-
"Cruel people," said Schultz dully. "People who
laugh at you so that you want to kill them — ^hurt them ;
and ugly, stupid people — ^like me — ^who never wanted
to be bom."
"Perhaps there isn't a God at all," Helmut con-
"Then it doesn't matter what happens," Schultz
answered. "It doesn't matter what one does — it's just
a handful of earth."
"German earth," Priitwitz cried out "That mat-
But the vision was already fading. A dense steamy
cloud rolled up over the opposite moimtains. It came
on irresistibly, menacingly, like a charge of cavalry,
its wet chill breath dimming the rain-washed colours
of the valley. Its shadow raced up the slopes. Sud-
denly the light went out
"Look!" said Schultz under his breath. "Look
They bent over his shoulder, looking at what he
indicated. Von Priitwitz laughed.
8o TOWARDS MORNING
"They've done you! You didn't dig deep enough,
Schultz shook his head The bewildered ants, cut
off from their retreat, began to pour over the edge
of the trench. They tumbled in, one after anodier,
and little by little they filled it. Their brown, insig-
nificant bodies filled it to the brink. The remainder,
carrying their twig, passed over.
"One can learn something from those beggars,"
von Prutwitz declared admiringly. "They've got the
But still Schultz pointed with his stubby mis-shapen
"We're like that," he whispered. "Just like that
And I'm God and I sit here and watch — ^and watch —
and laugh — and "
Suddenly he sprang up and stamped upon the little
moving, busy world — stamped upon it till it lay flat
and still. "I — I'm just like God," he gasped out
The mist closed in. It whirled about them. The
valleys and mountains had passed away. The rain
swept down in a blinding curtain.
And Schultz lay with his face in the earth and wept
For two months it had not rained Day after day
the sun went down like a fever-spot, and at night the
panting town folk threw open their shutters, trying
to catch some vagrant breeze from the brief dark-
ness. At four o'clock the sun shewed a brazen rim
above the horizon. The little freshness was burnt
up like a drop of water on a sheet of white hot metal.
In the Gymnasiimi there had been rumours of "heat
holidays." The children were quarrelsome, listless,
and irritable by turns. But the State had lately given
a fresh twist to the educational screw. There were
so many competitors for the posts it had to oflfer —
it could take its choice from the best brains in the coun-
try. It lifted the examination bar a Uttle higher, and
the Herr Oberlehrer Schafer drove his charges to the
So the rumours of the heat holiday grew fainter.
The children were liable to turn savagely on each other
at the mention of them.
"German boys can put up with heat and cold," the
Herr Oberlehrer said in his hard, colourless voice. "In
England, half the year is given over to holidays be-
cause the English are an idle and effete nation. They
have no strength to endure. They are sunk in lux-
ury, they batten on the glory of their fore-fathers.
But we Germans are a Spartan people, we know how
82 TOWARDS MORNING
to suffer. We steel our muscles day by day for the
final issue. If there is weakness amongst us, it must
be rooted out pitilessly." His own lips were cracked
with fever. Though they hated him, they knew that
he too was driven. In the darkened school-room they
stirred to a patient answering activity. "Now — ^we
are at the beginning of the Seven Years War. Karl
Schultz, will you be kind enough to give me your
idea of Germany at the beginning of this epoch ?"
It was very quiet again. The little scuffling move-
ment died away, and in the stillness they could almost
hear the hot droning of the insects in the neighbour-
ing forest. The Herr Oberlehrer repeated his sum-
mons, and slowly, painfully, Schultz dragged himself
to his feet. But he said nothing. He stood in the
midst of his watching companions like a stump little
tree amidst a pale undergrowth. His face was turned
to the light that sickered through the closed shut-
ters. It looked mis-shapen and swollen — ^and over-
white. There was something grotesque about it — ^the
half-comic, half-sinister semblance to a human face
that the moon shows when it is full.
**Well, and how long do you require to gather your
great thoughts, Schultz?'^
The boy's mouth dropped open. He turned stupidly
in the direction of the voice.
"Frederick the Great — Frederick the Great "
"That's very interesting. It appears that Schultz
has heard of some one called Frederick the Great.
"Frederick the Great was so fond of big soldiers —
whenever he saw any one tall — ^he had him stolen —
so every one stooped whenever they came near "
A gust of exasperated laughter bowed the lifted
TOWARDS MORNING 83
heads. The Herr Oberlehrer leant forward over his
desk. His voice no longer feigned an ironic suavity,
it sounded shrill and rasping like the grinding of one
metal upon another.
"Are you making fun of me by any chance?"
"Frederick the Great came to the throne "
"Stop that gabble. Answer my question. Have
you or have you not prepared your work?"
The child made a blind, fumbling movement with
his queer mis-shapen hands that seemed to appeal to
some one unseen.
My head hurts, Herr Oberlehrer — ^my head hurts
always. I can't think about an3rthing else."
They stared at him aghast. There was hysteria in
the atmosphere — a feeling of splitting nerves. Some
one dropped a pencil-box and the class winced as
though under the cut of a whip.
"Try not to whine, Schultz, I dislike whining. Your
headache does not interest me, and this isn't a girls'
school. Either you did or did not learn your
"I tried, Herr Oberlehrer — I tried — ^but I can't do
it — I can't really — ^it hurts — it hurts so."
*'You young humbug! The truth is you are the
biggest loafer in the class. You're a stumbling block
to the real workers, and I shall make an example of
you. In the meantime you will stand there until your
memory chooses to exert itself. Let there be abso-
lute silence whilst our delicate young friend gathers
his aching wits together."
They let their tension slip for an instant in a titter
which died away like a feverish breath of wind. Then
they were still again. Some of them gazed pitilessly
84 TOWARDS MORNING
at the lonely figure in their midst, others had their
Helmut could not bear to look, and yet again and
again his eyes were drawn against his will. His heart
seemed to be beating all over him. He could almost
hear the thick throb of his pulses. The air throbbed
with them. He knew what it was to stand like that —
alone, no one helping, no one caring, one's brains and
limbs frozen with shame and terror. He knew it so
well that his soul seemed to be deserting him — ^to be
creeping into Schultz's body — ^to be seeing through
his eyes, sweating in his agony. When he looked up
he saw himself standing there, crushed and stupefied
under the growing burden of silence.
If only some one cared — did something.
And suddenly Helmut leant forward and pushed
his notes into one of the limp, hanging hands. Even
then he knew that it was of no good — that it was
obvious and stupid. The crackling of the paper filled
the room with outrageous sound. Schultz turned
stupidly, but a faint light had broken over his whole
Then he let the papers slip.
The Herr Oberlehrer came swiftly down from his
rostrum, it was like the swoop of some big, murder-
ous bird. He stood over the two boys, and for a
moment Helmut almost thought he was smiling, his
eyes were so bright, and his teeth shewed beneath the
"You climisy young cheats! You little fools! Do
you really think you can play a stupid trick like that
on me? A pair of good-for-nothings. Well, I have
finished with you this time. I will not have you in
this class or in this school. You contaminate it, and
TOWARDS MORNING 85
I shall see to it that you are removed to the idiot
asylum where you belong. Get out of here — into the
courtyard — ^and cool your heads for a little. My dog
will keep you company, and keep you quiet till I
come. No— leave your books, you will not want
them again here."
They crept out from their desks as though their
legs were hardly strong enough to carry them. It was
such a long way to the door. They were so small
and the room was so big.
And Helmut stumbled as he had stumbled once be-
fore, and this time the Herr Oberlehrer leant forward
and struck him savagely across the round blond head.
"He had no right to do that ! No right. It's for-
bidden. I shall complain to my father. I shall tell
everybody. He will be sent away and everything will
be different He had no right."
He did not know that he was crying. The tears
rolled unheeded down his hot red cheeks. He held
his small sturdy figure squarely, defiantly, but his lips
and nostrils were quivering. "He had no right," he
repeated over and over again.
Schultz did not answer. He was calm — stolidly
calm and aloof, as though what had happened did not
concern him. The heavy-lidded eyes were half-closed,
and his abnormal head swayed sleepily on his shoul-
ders. And gradually the silence choked his compan-
ion's bo)rish fury. Pain and humiliation ceased to
spur him. He was like a young horse that has flung
its rider, and after a headlong gallop stands panting
86 TOWARDS MORNING
and quivering, awaiting retribution. "What does it
mean to be expelled?" he asked unsteadily. "I sup-
pose he can expel us — ^just because we're stupid and
can't get on. But what does it mean?" Schultz re-
mained silent, apparently he had not heard, there was
something intent about him as though he were follow-
ing up a definite rather amusing thought. "They can't
kill you just because you can't do lessons, can they?"
Helmut persisted. "One hasn't got to die because
one's stupid? But if one doesn't pass one's exam —
but then I've never known any one who failed — per-
haps one doesn't hear of them."
He stopped, overwhelmed by a rush of vague, ter-
rible fears. He did not know what they were, but
they had to do with his father and mother who were
always watching — ^always waiting for something,
with the Geheimrat, whose approval mattered so much
more than anything else, with Kurt, who would be tri-
umphant, with the Geheimratin, who would say:
"That's just what I expected." Above all, they had
to do with the world that loomed up behind these
figures — 2i world that had no use for failures.
But then what happened? Or were Schultz and
he the only boys that ever failed — ^lonely, horrible
The full mid-day sunlight poured down into the
courtyard, and the air shimmered with parched, suf-
focating heat The pavement burnt under foot
From the shuttered windows of the school-house came
the drone of children's voices, but outside the gates
it was still as death, even the hum of insects had
dropped to an exhausted, quiescent silence.
The two children stood helplessly in the glare of
the sun. They dared not go in to fetch their caps,
TOWARDS MORNING 87
and there was no shade except where the one tree threw
its branches over the wall. And in that little square
of shadow lay the Herr Oberlehrer's Teufel, watch-
ing them, its lolling tongue a spot of bright colour
in the bleached monotony.
It was with a purpose that the Herr Oberlehrer had
spoken of him. He knew — and was pleased to know
— ^that next to himself his dog was the most feared
being in the school. An ill-conditioned cur at best,
in the playground where it would occasionally appear,
it seemed to take to itself something of its master's
temper. It would attack without provocation— cruelly,
effectually, and to strike it or kick it off was beyond
the courage of the bravest For the Herr Oberlehrer
loved the animal. With Teufel he could be gentle,
caressing, and even playful. It was as though the
savage pitiless nature awoke in him a difficult respect.
If only we could run away," Helmut muttered —
somewhere where they would never find us."
A wave of physical sickness swept up from the pit
of his stomach, and he had to clench his teeth to keep
it back. His head buzzed as though every drop of
blood in him had a little voice, and a yellow, foetid
smelling mist swam before his eyes.
For the first time Schultz was speaking.
"Hullo, Teufel — ^nice dog, nice dog, Teufel."
He crouched down, patting the ground, the other
hand with a lump of meat between the crooked fingers,
temptingly extended. "Come on, Teufel, good dog.
Helmut forgot fear and sickness.
"Why, / wouldn't give him anything — the beast!
The voice continued its sing-song reiteration.
Come on, Teufel, good dog."
Fancy you're wanting to feed him."
88 TOWARDS MORNING
Schultz called softly. A feverish purpose was in
his voice, in every movement. It lent him a strange
forcefulness — ^almost a dignity. Suddenly Helmut
became afraid of him.
The dog lifted his head. He too seemed aware of
something unusual. He rose, yawned and stretched
himself, and came nearer, sullen, reluctant but com-
pelled. He sniffed at the outstretched hand, shewing
his ugly fangs.
"Good dog, Teufel."
The boy and the dog eyed each other, challenge
might have passed between them. Viciously the ani-
mal snapped the meat from the steady hand and gulped
"I'd have killed him first," Helmut stammered.
Schultz smiled vaguely. He got up, still watching
the dog, which had fallen into an abrupt immo-
bility, its jaws hung open, and there was a look of
puzzlement— of comic incredulity on its ugly face.
Then it began to cough. At first it was just an
ordinary cough — but it persisted. Presently the dog
lay down, worrying at its muzzle with its paws, roll-
ing over, twisting to the accompaniment of the gasp-
ing, suffocating whine. It grew louder, piercing, it
was like the cry of a human being, tortured out of
human semblance. Suddenly, as though galvanised,
the dog leapt up on its hind legs, pawing the air.
At first Helmut had laughed. It had been funny
to see the dreaded tyrant rolling and twisting like a
harmless puppy, now it was terrible. It looked at
Helmut — the thing he had hated looked at him with
SchnSutzchen's eyes — ^brown eyes, full of pathetic,
"Karl— what is it? What's the matter?"
TOWARDS MORNING 89
But still Schultz did not answer. His white face
was blank. He stood passive, his hands thrust in
his pockets, watching with the dazed intentness of
some one who is not yet quite awake.
Teufel had dropped down upon his forepaws — cry-
ing again — sl muffled protesting cry. Now, as though
released from a chain, he began to race round the
courtyard, full speed, striking against the walls, reel-
ing, choking, screaming. And behind him trailed
blood — a circling pattern on the grey stones.
There were faces at the window, the drone of voices
had long since died away. In a moment, as it seemed
to Helmut, the courtyard was full of people. He had
a vague impression of Herr Oberlehrer flying past him
— a gaunt black vulture with flapping wings. He saw
him fling himself in front of the raging animal — catch
at it and go down with it.
The screaming ceased. For a long minute no one
moved. Herr Oberlehrer and his dog lay in a black
heap together. At last the man rose. He stood over
the quiet outstretched body. There was something in
his hand — something red that dripped through his
"Who did this?" his voice was subdued — almost
gentle — ^more terrible than they had ever heard it.
"Some one gave my dog meat — ^meat packed with
needles. There were two boys alone with him — Felde
and Schultz, which of you two is it?"
The silence hung over them like a sword. Helmut
turned dazedly towards his companion. The blank
look had gone. The white face was convulsed and
twitching with full consciousness — ^with an agony of
naked animal terror. The Oberlehrer came nearer —
slowly — slowly — inevitably. "Who was it?"
90 TOWARDS MORNING
The stubby hand rose, it pointed :
"It was he— Hebnut— Helmut did it."
Helmut turned. He had no thought of protest —
only of escape. But the black figure sprang on him.
He screamed involuntarily, as the steel hands fastened
on his arms. But they whirled him up and up — and
then, suddenly, flung him headlong out of the glar-
ing sunlight into darkness.
In the morning the Herr Oberlehrer's place was
taken by a junior master — a young man who could
not subdue the murmurs that rose and died away again
like an uneasy wind. Rumour and coimter-rumour
ran from class to class with a lightning swiftness.
It was Kurt who told them that Helmut had re-
covered consciousness, but that he was never coming
And at mid-day another rumour reached them.
And suddenly the whispering ceased. The children
moved on tip-toe. They did not speak to one another.
They avoided each other's eyes as though they were
afraid of what they should see there.
Karl Schultz had confessed. He had left a letter.
And now he was dead. He had waited For two hours
and then thrown himself in front of the Orient Ex-
press at the level crossing.
What the express had left was to be buried in the
Town Cemetery that night
And it was Karl Schultz's birthday — ^his eleventh
The Gasthaus stCKxl at the head of the seven wa-
terfalls. Through a narrow cleft in the mountains
it peered out on to the Rhine Valley and on days
when the summer haze lifted one could see the great
river lying like a glittering, uncoiled snake across the
Hundreds of years before, Franciscan Monks had
kept watch from the narrow fastness and the Angelus
had broken sweetly through the ceaseless song of fall-
ing water. But now the monastery lay in ruins be-
hind the Gasthaus; careless, irreverent feet trod the
worn cloisters and the eternal voice was drowned in
laughter and singing, and the clink of glasses.
The fir-trees grew close about the monastery. They
held it in a dark embrace, protecting it against the
invasion of insolent men. And when the night came
they triumphed sombrely. Their darkness rustled and
murmured with forgotten things. The moon, falling
aslant between their pointed shadows, clothed the
crumbling walls in white glory and an unearthly life
awoke and moved with sweeping garments through
the roofless chapel.
Then the water of the seven falls was like the low
singing of a great choir.
At night Helmut lay awake, listening, trying to
catch the words which flowed away from him just as
92 TOWARDS MORNING
he seemed to hold them fast. Even through his fan-
tastic, imeasy dreams he pursued them desperately,
patiently, knowing they held the reason for all he
But in the day-time he crept away through the belt
of forest, high up to a sudden opening where the
meadows ran lush and sparkling to the banks of the
little lake. Here was silence. The water lay like a
darkly polished shield under the clear sky with the
cathedral spires of the forest reflected upon its un-
The stillness was a cool hand upon his heart For
hours he sat in the shade of the trees, his face be-
tween his hands, and looked out over the drowsy peace.
There were no thoughts to trouble him. His tired
brain was as quiet as the water. When a broad-
winged butterfly fluttered like a painted leaf through
the sunlight he felt a little frightened happiness stir
Then one day at the long dinner table the Geheimrat
explained the origin of the waterfall.
"It comes from a secret passage somewhere at the
bottom of the lake," he said. "No one has ever been
able to discover the exact source or explain the fact
that the level of the lake never changes. It is a mys-
tery, but" — ^the Geheimrat waved a fat hand — "there
is no mystery beyond the reach of human intelligence."
The guests applauded solemnly.
That afternoon when Helmut crept back wearily to
his place beneath the trees he knew that something
had changed. The peace had gone. Or it had never
really been. Beneath the placid surface things moved
—darkly, unfathomably. There was no real rest any-
where. It was only a seeming. Night and day, year
TOWARDS MORNING 93
after year for generations beyond memory, the water
had thundered down the seven falls, coming from no
one knew where, and racing onward had met the great
river and been lost Night and day for generations
unborn it would be still rushing to its sacrifice, an
army of uncounted millions unknown and unseen,
save when the rocks tossed them for an instant into
And every second the little lake would give of itself
and show no sign.
That ceaseless, purposeless activity, that ceaseless,
purposeless giving, stung his numb brain to an unwill-
ing sensibility. Thoughts flickered up like points of
flame from a kindling fire. They came and went and
every time they came they were brighter and keener.
They showed him pictures that he had held away from
him with a child's instinct of self-preservation.
There was Heini, tumbling into the flames, and the
Oberlehrer towering up and up until he blotted out
the sky, and the dog that raced round the courtyard
in a track of blood — ^and Schultz — Schultz as he had
seen him through long weeks of delirium — Schultz —
just a little awful bundle lying between the rails.
And at last he sprang up. He ran as fast as his
unsteady legs could carry him — ^away from the lake
— away from the sound of falling water — ^headlong
downhill through the forest
He had never been to the foot of the waterfalls
before. The steep steps, the flimsy balustrade, the
near thunder, had made him too dizzy. But now in
94 TOWARDS MORNING
his panic-stricken flight down the pathless mountain
side he had reached the valley.
A funny little sensation ran up his spine. He
wanted to laugh and cry in one breath. And he had
not cried since that last day in the Gymnasium and
he had never laughed. But it was so funny. So much
noise and terror and splendour and then just this little
bit of a stream at the end of it all — this jolly rivulet
jumping from boulder to boulder, falling into deep
pools and tumbling out again in miniature cascades,
tossing a handful of diamonds into the sunlight — no
more terrible than a laughing baby.
And the phantoms which had hunted at his heels fell
away from him. His knees shook and he dropped
down on to the moss and rolled over with his arms
outstretched and blinked up at the golden light. He
lay there in an ecstasy of content He thought: "I
must hold tight to this minute so that it won't go —
so that it will always be like this — so that they won't
ever come and fetch me and take me back again."
But somehow he could not hold on tight. The min-
utes wriggled away from between his fingers. Per-
haps after all he did not really want to keep them. The
water called to him — ^not terribly now, but gaily and
dancingly. Content was not enough. He rolled over
again on his stomach and with chin propped on his
hands watched the brook leap down-hill with drowsy,
happy eyes. The water was crystal-clear and spar-
kling. It made him thirsty. He wanted to drink it.
Other shy little wishes ran in and out of his thoughts.
It would be jolly to plunge one's hot hands into the
water — ^to splash about — or most daring of all to take
off one's shoes and stockings and paddle down stream
on and on
TOWARDS MORNING 95
There was no one looking. He crawled nearer.
How deep some of the pools were — much deeper than
they seemed. And there were fish in them, long mo-
tionless shadows lying in the sunlit bed. He dropped
a stone into the water and in a flash they were gone —
so swiftly one could not follow them— one could not
even guess their hiding place.
After all, some one had been looking. Some one
jumped up from behind a boulder on the opposite
bank. A shrill young voice called fiercely :
''Du hose Bub! Du base Bub!"
He stared at her in consternation. It was as star-
tling as though a real water Nixe — one of Anna's
fairy-folk — had sprung out at him. She was small
and slender and brown — ^bare brown legs, a short
brown petticoat, a brown cotton bodice, brown neck,
brown little face, brown eyes, dark brown hair, plaited
in two long plaits. The little fist that she shook at
Helmut was burnt as brown as a berry.
'Tfou horrid little boy — ^you've spoilt everjrthing."
He continued to stare helplessly.
"I didn't— I didn't know."
'Couldn't you see what I was doing?"
1 didn't see you even."
'I was tickling a trout — ^a great big fat fellow —
and he had just gone to sleep — ^and then you came
and splashed — ^you big booby."
''But I didn't know. Besides " He had recov-
ered his breath now. After all, she was only a little
girl — a little village girl. It wouldn't do to let her
bully him — sl G3minasist — ^with the yellow cap of the
Quinta. "Besides — one can't catch trout like that
It's all a fairy tale."
96 TOWARDS MORNING
"Oh, is it?" She considered him scornfully.
"You're from Karlstadt, aren't you?"
"Yes. How did you know?"
"Oh, I know all those people from up there" — ^she
nodded in the direction of the Kurhaus — ^''and they all
come from Karlstadt and they all talk like you do —
with the tip of their tongues "
"It's the proper way to talk."
"Who says so?" She did not wait for an answer,
but returned indignantly to his first offence. "Any-
how, one can tickle trout — ^my brother has done it
heaps of times— and I would have done it then if
you hadn't interfered and made such a noise."
"Well, why don't you do it now?"
"With you there?"
"I won't make a noise again."
"Yes — ^you would. You did it on purpose."
"I didn't." He was hot and trembling with anger.
"I didn't even see you."
"Well— you said I told lies."
"You said it was all a fairy tale."
"Perhaps some fairy tales are true," said Helmut
She considered him for a moment in silence. Then
her black brows relaxed. She smiled shyly.
"Anyhow the fish won't come again now. You've
frightened them away."
'My name's Lenchen," she volunteered.
He got up and lifted his yellow cap solemnly.
"I'm Helmut— HehnufFelde."
"I like that It's a nice name. Why do you wear
that funny yellow hat?"
TOWARDS MORNING 97
"It's my class cap. I belong to the Gymnasium —
I'm in the Quinta now."
"That sounds awfully grand."
He brushed up to the roots of his flaxen dose-
cropped hair. It did him good to hear her say that.
It was as though she had put a healing ointment on
a secret wound that was always hurting him. She
didn't know how low he was in his class. He wouldn't
need to tell her. He liked the way she looked at him
— with such solemn brown eyes. It made him hold
"I expect you go to school too," he said with manly
"Oh, yes. Three times a week in the summer —
twice a week in the winter. It is three miles to the
school and in the winter we nm down on our tobog-
gans. It's great fun then. But we don't wear caps —
It's jolly to be without a cap sometimes," Helmut
said consolingly. "It makes one feel — so — so free."
She did not answer and they looked smilingly at
each other across the narrow stream — ^anxious and
timid and eager as two young animals who are not yet
quite sure of each other. It was Lenchen who took
the next step.
"Are you all alone ?" she asked.
"Yes — quite. At least — ^my people are up there — r
but— but that's different."
"Haven't you any one to play with?"
"Oh, no. I— I don't play."
'Are you so grown up?"
I'm eleven — nearly."
T'r'aps you're too grand to play."
98 TOWARDS MORNING
Her tone was serious, without mockery. He shook
"Oh, no — it's not that I'm not grand a bit — but
I haven't had any time to play. One has to work."
"I work too," she said. "Awfully hard. I have
my lessons and then at harvest time I help in the
fields and in the winter I carve the birds grandfather
puts on his cuckoo clocks. But I play too. I used
to play a lot with my brother Hans, but now they've
sent him to work in the town. Now I have no one
to play with. I love playing."
He looked at her wistfully.
"I used to like it too. It's such a long time ago—
"I — I suppose you wotddn't p\ay with me ?"
"Yes — I would. I'd love to. If you'd only show
Her eyes were full of a shy eagerness.
"Hans and I make up our own games. P'r'aps
"I'm sure they're not I'd like to play — ^if you'd let
He had only one fear now — ^that she would find out
how stupid he was — ^that she would grow tired of him
and leave him. She bent down and picked up a
broken piece of branch.
"It's a race," she explained. "You choose your
boat and then when I count one, two, three, we both
throw ours in and the boat that gets to the bridge
first wins. We have to nm alongside, you know, to
watch, because they're all so much alike. Are you
"Yes — ^I've got my piece — I'm ready."
"One— two— three— oflf !"
TOWARDS MORNING 99
He saw at once that there was more in the game
than at first met the eye. For one thing so much de-
pended on your choice of branch. His was too broad,
too clumsy. It stuck in between stones. It refused
to be hurried, it jibbed at water-falls. Lenchen's
fancy was slender and light as herself. It leaped
chasms, it shot through narrow gorges like an arrow.
On the full stream it was a positive race-horse. And
Lenchen ran beside it, leaping and laughing, throwing
up her bare brown arms in joyous excitement. Hel-
mut ran on the opposite bank. He forgot the game.
He left his charge shamefully in the lurch. He could
not take his eyes off that flying figure. She was free —
free like the butterflies and the flashing lizards that
he had watched through the long summer days — ^like
all the forest creatures that he loved and dimly envied.
His knees shook and his heart thtmiped against his
ribs. But somewhere in the darkness a little spring
of happiness was bubbling up.
"I've won! I've won!" she screamed.
He stumbled. The trembling knees broke under
him. He hardly tried to save himself.
For a moment it was all dark. But he was con-
scious of being very weary — ^very much at peace. He
heard some one cry out and the splash of water. He
felt some one bend over him — a pair of strong young
arms clasped him about the shoulders.
"Helmut— oh, Helmut, are you hurt?"
He opened his eyes heavily. The trees and the
moss-covered floor made a green mist before his eyes.
But after a little while he saw her face — close to his,
so anxious, so pitying that he forced himself to speak.
loo TOWARDS MORNING
"It's all right — Fm so sorry — I'm not very strong —
I can't nin muth — I've been very ill."
She let him slip down on the ground again, but in
a moment she was back and he drank the cool water
out of her brown hands.
"I know what it feels like," she said eagerly. "I've
been ill too. I had scarlet-fever. I was dreadfully,
"It wasn't like that," he said. "It was different
They brought me here to try and get me well."
But he did not want to speak. He was tired —
exquisitely tired. She still held him close and his head
rested against her shoulder. She passed her hard cool
little hand over his eyes. There was something urgent,
passionate, in her caress. She hushed her shrill yotmg
voice to a crooning murmur.
"Poor Helmutchen — ^poor Helmutchen."
"I shall be all right soon."
'What made you so ill ? Didn't they let you play ?"
"I'm so stupid." He did not care now that she
knew. He was sure now that she wouldn't leave
him. "I can't learn my lessons — ^that made people hate
mc. And then something awful happened."
"What dreadful thing?"
"There was another boy — ^and he couldn't do his
lessons either. It made his head hurt so frightfully.
And the master hated him too — and badgered him.
And he killed the master's dog. He put needles in the
"The master thought I'd done it — ^and — ^and — ^then
he struck me — ^and I was delirious."
A convulsive shudder shook him. She held him
TOWARDS MORNING loi
"How silly! How silly! Any one could tell you
hadn't done it" Her voice shook with anger. '7
could have told them you couldn't do a terrible thing
like that. You're sudi a pretty boy."
'Tm so stupid."
"What does that matter? You're nice and kind
He shook his head.
"You don't understand. One must do one's work
—one must be able to get on."
He groped anxiously through his little stock of
"Because of the State," he found at last.
"What's a State?"
"Germany is the State," he lifted his head ''You
see, if we can't make her bigger and stronger we're
"And if we're stupid — ^and — ^and can't do any-
"Stupid people have to be weeded out," he asserted.
"I don't believe that. I'm sure it's not true. Our
Pastor says that Christ liked stupid people — ^and little
He smiled. He felt terribly wise and old.
"Nobody believes in Christ. Perhaps you do.
Country people are more con — conservative. They
cling to things. But we — we know it's all a fairy tale.
We've got to start all over again — we've got to work
things out for ourselves."
He knew that she could not understand — ^not even
enough to argue. But her arms relaxed and fell away
"And — ^and — the other boy — ^the real one?"
102 TOWARDS MORNING
"He killed himself." Her shudder made him angry.
It was so silly — so like a girl. "Well, it was the best
thing he could do," he said roughly. "He was no good
— and he knew it."
"He was cruel."
"No — ^he wasn't. He was off his head Besides,
every one's cruel. We all hurt each other — down to
the teeniest, weeniest ant. It's not cruelty that mat-
ters — it's being weak. Weakness is the greatest sin."
She sprang free from him — straight up — ^her hands
clenched at her side, her little face white imder the
"It's wicked," she cried out. "It's wicked. I won't
— I won't believe it. I thought you were a nice little
boy — ^but you're horrid — ^you make me frightened."
Her eyes were hot with anger — with a child's royal
anger, uncorruptible and pitiless. He could not meet
it. He wanted to say :
"You're just a silly little girl. You don't under-
stand. Life's like that " But her wrath was im-
placable. It daunted him. It was no use feeling old
and wise if one felt guilty too.
"Lenchen " he repeated anxiously,
"Go away! I don't like you — ^you're horrid —
She tore her hand from his and ran fleetly across
the narrow wooden bridge. She was almost lost
among the trees when he sprang up, calling to her.
All his superiority had gone, all his little wisdom
tumbled into ruins. He was almost crying.
"Please — Lenchen — Lenchen — don't go. I'm sorry
— I'm awfully sorry. I didn't mean to make you an-
gry — really I didn't — ^please — ^Lenchen " His
TOWARDS MORNING 103
shaken, pleading voice just held her. She stood mo-
tionless in the shadow like an alarmed young doe,
her head lifted. "I'm not really horrid — I've been so
ill — p'r'aps that's why — ^you might be kind, Lenchen —
you ought to be kind to people who're ill."
She turned very slowly towards him, looking at
him distrustfully out of the comers of her eyes.
*Tfou don't really mean all that nasty stuff?"
"No — I mean — ^people tell you things — one has to
believe something. But p'r'aps they're wrong — ^p'r'aps
your fairy stories are true — ^if you'd only tell them
He was shameless in his fear.
*'YovL won't frighten me again ?"
"No — ^never. Not so long as I live. Word of hon-
our. Please come back and play."
"You don't want to play. You're so wise and grand.
You were just making fun."
"I wasn't I'm so lonely, Lenchen. I haven't any-
body to play with. It makes me so dull and stupid, —
Still she watched him with her quaint air of mis-
trust Then suddenly she laughed, showing her white
teeth — and in a flash was gone.
Some instinct forbade his following. But he
shouted her name again and again into the forest till
it ran like an exultant war-cry.
Every day they met at the foot of the waterfall
and played together. She taught him all her games
and they made up new ones. When they were tired
104 TOWARDS MORNING
they sat at the stream's edge and talked and tried to
tickle trout, though they never caught any.
"It's because you don't believe," Lenchen would say
"But I do — I do believe," he would answer. "I
But then he would feel a sharp pain nm through
him — like the pain of a wound that will never quite
For when one is so old and wise it is hard to be-
lieve anything— even the truth.
On Sunday he saw her in the white church in the
valley. She sat in the front row on the women's side,
and looked up with solemn eyes at the Pastor from
under the broad flat hat with the red pom-poms. Even
her legs in the white stockings and her feet in the
black buckle shoes looked solemn. One could not
imagine their being so graceless and unashamed as
to run naked and cut capers. Altogether she seemed
so wrapt in goodness that Helmut felt a strange wave
of shame and contrition pass over him — ^and the
strangest part of it all was that it left him tingling
all over with happiness.
She did not look at him at ail — or once indeed when
her eyes met his it was with grave reproach. He
could almost hear her say, "Helmut, you're not
After that he sang the hymns so loudly that the
Geheimrat frowned. And he tried hard to believe
them. For when he almost succeeded he seemed to
be nearer to her.
TOWARDS MORNING 105
It was the last day of the holidays.
Helmut stood in his little bed-room and tied a nose-
gay of wild flowers together with the ribbon off his
school-cap. On a scrubby piece of paper he had care-
fully and painstakingly written out a poem. He had
composed it the night before — in bed. It began :
"My Lenchen is like the running stream,"
and ran to four lyrical and impassioned verses.
The composing of it had helped him not to cry.
Now he did not want to cry at all. The sun shone.
Even the thought of Kurt of the thick cruel mouth
and bulging blue eyes could not daunt him. For there
was one day left — one long day which must never,
never be allowed to pass.
The door opened and he thrust the posy and poem
rutiilessly into the bosom of his blouse. Though he
pretended to be absorbed in something else and did
not look round, he knew that it was his mother. He
heard the crackling of her stiff silk bodice.
"Helmut, why are you upstairs? Why don't you
come down? You're always moping by yourself. It
isn't nice — it doesn't lopk well. Your uncle has been
asking for you — he has something to tell you."
She was out of breath and her voice sounded flus-
tered and anxious. At another time her message
would have frightened him. But now he only half
"I was just tidying up, Mother."
'Tfes. That's all very well. If only you would
keep your hands dean. No, don't stop to wash them
io6 TOWARDS MORNING
now. Your uncle hates waiting. He's on the balcony,
He came back reluctantly and she bent over him,
tidying his blouse, fussing his hair with plump hard
hands. He thought suddenly how horrible her face
was when it came close. And yet just at that moment
he could have put his arms round her and hugged
her and told her all about Lenchen. So often his
mother had made him feel like that — as though her
dull ugliness were something sad and pitiftd that
brought them closer to one another.
"Helmut, Liebling, when your uncle speaks to you
you will be good, won't you? You must try to be
more grateful. You're such a funny little fellow — ^so
stiflf and stolid and unaffectionate. People don't al-
ways understand that it's your shjmess. And you
know your uncle has been so good to you. It was
he who brought us up here when you were getting
better. We could never have afforded it. And he's
promised to help you in your career. You know, we
can't do much for you, Helmut. Your poor father
has been so unfortunate. When he was a young man
he offended his chief — ^and — ^and he hasn't been ad-
vanced as — ^as we had hoped. That ought to be a
lesson to you — ^always to consider your superiors — ^to
be polite to them and appreciative."
"You ought to make more of your uncle and aunt
"I hate Kurt."
He felt her draw herself away from him.
^'You're not to say things like that."
TOWARDS MORNING 107
'It's true. I do hate him. He's cruel and he hates
"That's because you're naughty to him. They think
you're jealous because he gets on so well at school."
"He cheats — ^and tells Kes."
"Never mind. That's not your business. He suc-
ceeds and you don't You ought to be polite — ^and
kind. You ought to say nice things to him to please
him. After all, when you're grown up he might be
in a position to hurt you — ^in the army, or in the
Government or in business. He might spoil your ca-
reer just as your poor father's career has been spoilt."
"But I don't want a career."
"Helmut, don't be silly. Every one has a career
— in our position."
"I — I want to play," he burst out eagerly, "and —
and then I'd like to be a farmer and work in the fields
and have pigs "
She stood right away from him, looking at him as
though at some one unfamiliar and frightening.
"You mustn't talk like that — even in fun. Sup-
posing your uncle heard you? He'd think you
had no feeling of honour, Helmut — ^no feeling of
Standesehre. You couldn't be a farmer. All our fam-
ily have served the Government. It would be a dis-
grace. One owes something to one's position, Helmut
One can't do as one likes "
"Birds do," he persisted, " — ^and butterflies and
squirrels. They play in the wood all day "
"Until they get hunted and killed. That ought to
be a lesson "
"And Schultz got killed too," he said.
He was following a new train of thought and did
not see her face. It had grown cold and hard and
. io8 TOWARDS MORNING
white. There was a note of reserve — ^ahnost of an-
tagonism in her colourless voice.
"I suppose this is the result of holidays, Helmut
And you've been ill, so one must excuse you. But
you're talking very stupidly and wickedly. Karl
Schultz brought disgrace upon his people and when
he killed himself he did the only thing he could do.
People can't live after they're disgraced — ^not in our
position." She softened suddenly. She pleaded.
"Helmut — ^you mustn't fail us — ^you must be good
Your father and I — we hope so much frcmi you.
You're everything to us. And we've been so sad and
anxious. You will try and please every one — ^and
work hard — and make us proud of you?"
He looked up at her. Her face was quivering and
her eyes red with tears, but he thrust an answering
distress away from him. He only thought of how
quickly he could escape.
"Yes, Mother— I'll try."
"Mein liebes Kerlchenr
They went downstairs together and her hand on his
shoulder kept his rebellious feet from jumping two
steps at a time. She drew him closer to her as they
came out onto the verandah where the Geheimrat and
his brother-in-law sat over their afternoon coffee. It
was as though she were trying to subdue him with
the nearness of her strong body.
The Geheimrat was in a facetious temper. He had
dined well. The smear of cigar ash on his waist-
coat, the disorder of empty cups and glasses on the
table, the pose of his soft big limbs suggested an
obscene satiety. His face was flushed and heavy.
He looked like a big black crow drowsing in the sun
after some repulsive meal.
TOWARDS MORNING 109
He leant forward and pinched his nephew's ear.
Na, young gentleman, and how are you, eh?"
I am very well, Uncle," said Helmut gravely,
'Tfes, Uncle, thank you very much."
"Good. You've been running wild long enough,
though. Too much loafing isn't good for German
The grip on his shoulder tightened. He glanced
across at his father. The Herr Amtschreiber sat on
the edge of his chair smiling with weak, anxious
''You've had splendid holidays, haven't you,
"Yes, Father — ^thank you, Uncle."
"Panting to get back to work, eh?" the Geheimrat
"Oh, yes— Uncle."
The red face grew suddenly pitiless.
"Well, you've got a lot to make up for. You've
done very badly so far. If it hadn't been for that
illness of yours — I can't put up with that sort of
thing, you know. I am not going to help lame dogs
over stiles. That's what I want to tell you. If you
want help from me, you've got to show you're worth
helping. You're not going back to the Gymnasium —
you know that?"
Helmut glanced swiftly over his shoulder towards
the forest and then back into the Geheimrat's face.
"You're going to the Institut Bemhard. That's
where all the idle youngsters are sent. And not one
of them has dared to fail yet They cram you there
no TOWARDS MORNING
like Strassburger gtts^ — so " He pantomimed
some one pouring liquid through a funnel into his
open mouth. "When they've finished with you we'll
get you into a line regiment — and after that we'll see
what can be done. But you'll have to pull yourself to-
He spoke loudly so that all the other hotel guests
heard and looked at the small feverishly flushed boy
and smiled. A faint tremor of anxiety shook him.
But it passed as quickly as a gust of wind through
the branches of a tree.
^'Yes, Uncle— I'll try."
"I'm sure he'll do his best to show his gratitude/*
the Herr Amtschreiber began.
The Geheimrat waved his cigar silencingly.
"We all hope so. You know what happens to boys
who don't pass their Einjahriges exam, Helmut?"
But Helmut did not answer. His attention had es-
caped — it was racing ahead of him — down hill to
the forest. He did not even see the Geheimrat, though
he was staring at him. All that the Geheimrat had
threatened was just so much sound. It concerned to-
morrow — ^and to-morrow was afar off — something
negligible and unrealisable like death.
"Didn't you hear, Hehnut?"
He started, smiling vaguely.
"Oh, yes. Uncle."
"If you fail in your exam you will have to go into
the Army as a common soldier — for three years. You
will be outdistanced by your contemporaries. Every
opening will be closed to you. You won't expect help
from me then, eh?"
He thought, "Perhaps she won't wait "
"Oh, yes — ^yes — Uncle — ^no. Uncle."
TOWARDS MORNING in
"Good. We understand each other. You can go."
The hand checked the wild impulse. He lifted his
cap and made a solemn Uttle bow from the waist
The hand released him.
Sedately he walked down the steps and the path that
led to the brink of the forest He paused and looked
back. But he was out of sight.
Then he gave a choking, delirious little shout and
b^an to run. He ran faster and faster. And at last
the hill ran away with him altogether and toppled him
over, panting and laughing, on to the moss-covered
roots of a big pine-tree.
Lenchen helped to pick him up and tried to rub the
green stain off his knickers. There were pine needles
all over him — even in his thatch of flaxen hair. She
brushed him anxiously, keeping her eyes resolutely
'*You might have hurt yourself," she scolded.
Boys are always so rough and clumsy."
And girls are always crying," he retorted glee-
fully. 'T believe you're crying now, Lenchen."
"Well, you've been crying."
"Now who's telling fairy-tales?"
He prepared to do a highly aggravating war-dance
round her, but suddenly she looked straight at him
and he stood still.
"I thought you weren't coming," she said. "I sup-
posed you had forgotten."
His own eyes had grown rotmd and serious.
112 TOWARDS MORNING
"Would — ^would you have minded — so much,
"I don't know. I like playing. And I've no one
to play with now— except you." She shrugged her
small shoulders crossly. "Well — ^it's no good stand-
ing here, anyhow."
She went on up the steep mountain-path very much
as though she did not care whether he followed or not
She walked so fast that he had to run to catch up
with her. They continued side by side, getting very
hot and breathless, Helmut every now and then cast-
ing anxious, rather awe-struck glances at his com-
"Lenchen — I say — Lenchen."
"You know — ^I couldn't help it — ^they wouldn't let
me go— they kept on jawing at me — I — I nearly cried
The pace slackened. She was listening like some
doubtful bird, with its head cocked to catch the faint-
est suspicious sound.
"I don't believe you did."
"I did — ^honour bright. If they hadn't let me come
I — I should have howled."
It was magnanimous. She stopped to look at him,
her cheeks bright with colour.
"Howled," he emphasised nobly.
He had his first glimpse of the elusive, feminine
temperament. She gave a sudden shrill little laugh,
pinched his arm and was off down a side-path, skip-
ping like a mocking brown elf, her two plaits Aying
out behind her, Helmut followed at a rather stillen
trot. He felt sure that she had been making fun
TOWARDS MORNING 113
of him all the time — had compromised his masculine
dignity for the sheer fun of the thing. It was all
the more disconcerting, when he caught up with her
again, that she was quite serious.
'Oh, Helmut, you are a darling !"
^Oh!" he said helplessly.
^he took his injured arm and squeezed it hard.
"We're going to have a whole happy day together —
He gave a solemn nod. He was not going to tell
her about to-morrow. He was afraid of telling her.
She might not understand what a long way off to-
"Yes. Let's do something extra, shall we? Some-
thing different I — I'd like something quite special."
"We'll go up to the Ludwigshohe," she decided.
"It will be so hot there'll be no one there. We shall
have it all to ourselves. What did you bring?"
He fumbled in his trousers-pocket and produced a
crumbling and slightly soiled lump of Sandtorte.
"I sneaked it yesterday afternoon at tea."
"And I've kept my breakfast Butterbrotchen. We'll
share and drink out of the broc^. It will be like an
The word gave him a little thrill of memory. Years
ago Heini and Fritz Schnautzchen and he had adven-
"Let's pretend," he said eagerly. "Let's pretend
we're lost — or that there's been a terrible earthquake
and we're the only people left in the whole world."
She considered seriously.
"I don't think I'd like that. You see, there's grand-
father and mother — ^and Hans — ^and my aunt over at
Gutach — I wouldn't like them to be killed."
114 TOWARDS MORNING
He walked on in silence. He was ashamed and a
little disappointed. He saw that it was unkind to have
wanted to clear off a lot of nice people for the sake
of the Geheimrat and Kurt At the same time, the
fact tliat Lenchen loved some of those nice people
threw a sort of shadow between them.
"I expect you're awfully fond of your grandfather
and mother — ^and Hans — ^and — and — ^your aunt/' he
said at last.
"Of course I am. Aren't you ?"
"I haven't got any — I mean — I don't know — p'r'aps
town people are different"
"I don't think I like town-people at all," said
Lenchen, lifting her sleek rotmd head proudly, "—ex-
cept you, Helmut And you're not a bit like them.^'
It was full afternoon now. The sun struck with
hot golden shafts between the trees that lined the
steep stony path. The sleepy air weighed heavily on
them so that they lagged, and struggled one behind
the other. At the end Lenchen led. She kept on piti-
lessly. Helmut, breathless and panting, fixed his eyes
on the little brown heels that twinkled from boulder
to boulder just above him. His heart pounded against
his ribs and his breath came hard and short, but he
kept the little brown heels in sight
At last the trees thinned. They came out into a
wide clearing in the midst of which stood a wooden
hut, labelled "Aussichtspunkt" The path straggled
on aimlessly for a few yards and ended in a sur-
prised kind of way with a rustic balustrade.
Lenchen lifted her bare arms above her head.
"Now we're at the top of the world," she cried ex-
ultantly. "There's nothing higher than we are."
He found breath to stammer:
TOWARDS MORNING 115
"Oh, but there's Mont Blanc, Lenchen — ^and heaps
of other mountains — smiles higher."
She pushed him indignantly.
"You're such a horrid little boy, Helmut. What's
the use of playing if you don't play properly? I feel
I am at the top of the world and so I am at the top.
Don't spoil things."
"Sorry," he muttered humbly.
He stood close beside her. He felt very ashamed.
She was quite right. It was horrid to talk about Mont
Blanc. He would never have thought of such a thing
when he had played with Heini and Fritz Schnautz-
chen— even supposing he had known about it, which
he hadn't. He wondered vaguely what made him spoil
things — ^things he loved. "I'll play properly now," he
She smiled upon him — her wide, kind smile.
It's only because you're so clever, Helmut."
'But I'm not. I'm stupid. I mix things up. Len-
chen — I think I could play better — I mean, would it
matter if / pretended I was all alone in the world —
"Why, no— of course not."
He became animated and purposeful.
"That'll be splendid. We'll bivouac here. You see,
it's a safe place. We can't be attacked on three sides
because of the precipice. But I'll have to explore
round first to see if there aren't any murderers or
"But every one's dead, Helmut."
"Now who's being horrid? Besides, there'd be
wolves and things. And you're under my protection.
You ought to do as you're told, you know. Sit down
tinder the trees and wait till I come back."
ii6 TOWARDS MORNING
She looked at him with solemn admiration.
"Oughtn't you to have weapons?"
"I have weapons." He thrust a branch through his
belt and patted it significantly. "Now I'm armed to
the teeth. You're not frightened, are you?"
"No, no. Not very."
He glanced back anxiously.
"You won't eat all the bread and butter, will you,
She made a sign of taking a tremendous oath and
he plunged boldly into the forest. It was not a game
any more. It was as real as anything had ever been
when he and Heini and Fritz Schnautzchen had set
out on their adventures. There were wolves and
"things" — in spite of the earthquake there might even
be brigands. And he was not afraid. If a whole pack
of wolves had set on him he would have met them
undaunted. He would have killed them — every one
— ^because he would be defending Lenchen, who
trusted him — ^and who for all her boldness was just
a little bit afraid.
He was a Knight — a Siegfried setting out to win
glory for his Briinhilde who waited for him on her
He sent a ringing shout of defiance at the enemy.
But no one answered. He stood still and listened
to his shout. It went on and on through the forest.
It was as though he had given life to something, that
it had got away from him and laughed at him. And
afterwards when it had gone there was the silence.
He had not noticed it before. Now with every min-
ute it grew more and more profound. It was very
dark, too. Where he stood the sun had never pene-
trated for a hundred years. The straight bare stems
TOWARDS MORNING 117
of the pine trees dwelt amidst night and twilight. No
birds had ever built their nests among the branches.
The stillness was never broken by the flutter of a
bird's wing or a note of a bird's song. It was as
though death lived there.
Helmut knew that there were invisible things all
round him. He could feel them watching. But he
could not see them — ^yet. They lay just outside his
vision. Karl Schultz was there— quite close. If he
did not move — if he did not make an effort he would
see him distinctly.
He had not seen Karl Schultz since he had played
He forced himself to walk on. He did not think
of wolves or brigands any more. They were not real.
Not real like the invisible people. His feet were
leaden, just as they are in those awfiil nightmares
when one tries to escape and can't And he was very
cold. All at once he began to run — ^and ran madly
with the enemy hot on his heels— out into the sun-
There was Lenchen waiting for him, her arms
folded about her knees, the Butterbrotchen solemnly
placed in front of her — ^like a little dog on trust. She
waved to him and he forgot why he had been afraid.
"Why, Helmut, what a time you've been! Have
you killed them all?"
'AH the ones I could kill," he said soberly.
There are things one can't kill," she remarked —
"fairies and witches and people like that. Even earth-
quakes can't kill them. There's a little house down in
Ihe valley just peeping out of the trees. I'm sure a
witch lives there."
ii8 TOWARDS MORNING
"It's the Forsthaus " he began, but she silenced
him with the crusty edge of the Butterhrotchen.
"Bite!" she commanded.
He obeyed whole-heartedly, and they took bite and
bite about so that there should be no waste. They
divided the Sandtorte to the last crumb. They were
very thirsty, but it was too much bother to find water.
"Don't you wish you had two Butterbrotchen all to
yourself?" Lenchen asked sleepily.
' "Yes— rather."
But he did not really care. He was too happy. He
leant back against the tree and through half-closed
eyes looked out over the earth. It was a dream — ^a
real dream. Beyond the furthest mountain were great
Of course they were on the top of the world. What
was all that nonsense about Mont Blanc? He had
never seen Mont Blanc. It was in a book. Books
were stupid and dull — ^not real like this.
Of course they were all alone.
He felt a hand take his. Their hands cuddled to-
gether like little mice.
"I am sleepy, aren't you, Helmut?"
"No — ^not a bit," he declared valiantly.
Her dark head rested drowsily against his fair one.
Of course there were fairies.
When he closed his eyes he could hear their distant
He woke suddenly and violently, and even before he
knew where he was he knew that the dreadful thing
TOWARDS MORNING 119
Lenchen stretched herself and rubbed her eyes.
"Why — ^weVe been asleep."
"It's gone/' he said.
She laughed sleepily.
"But there's to-morrow. Grandfather says to-mor-
row is also a day."
"Not for me. I — I'm going home, Lenchen."
She did not cry out or protest. He felt the warm
slack body pressed against his grow straight and rigid.
She frightened him — she was so still.
"Why didn't you tell me?"
"I didn't want you to know. I didn't want to know
myself. I thought — I didn't think it would ever really
"Helmut — I — I shan't have any one to play with.'*
"I shan't ever play again."
They did not look at one another, but sta'-ed un-
winkingly ahead, their eyes strained wide open. The
shadow of the gatmt pine had spread round them like
a black stain. The peaks of the mountains stood out
against the sky in shatp, cruel outline. It was as
though a silver veil had been rolled up. There was
no more mystery. The warm mid-summer murmur
had died into cold silence.
In the witch's cottage a red eye winked up at them
"Oh, Hehnut— Helmut!"
He turned on her with a choking little cry.
"I can't — I can't believe it. To-day was to be al-
ways — ^always. I can't go back. I don't know what to
do. If only I could run away somewhere. The/re
sending me away — to a crammer's — ^where stupid, bad
I20 TOWARDS MORNING
boys go — they told me — ^just now. And they'll stuff
my head — full — like a Strassburg goose — till it splits.
No one ever fails, my uncle said. But / shall. My
head hurts now when I try to think of things. And
it will get worse. And they'll laugh and make fun —
and I shall try harder. Then I shall fail just the same.
I shall have to be a common soldier for three years.
And when I come out there'll be no place for me — my
uncle said — ^nowhere to go. No one will want me.
My people will be too ashamed. They want to be so
proud — ^they want me to do better than any one else.
They're always expecting things — and I can't do
them— I can't— I can't."
She pressed her burning cheek against his.
"But they're your people — they must love you —
His teeth chattered. He made a convulsive effort
to hold himself still.
"T — I don't know. If only one knew — why it all
was — what it all means — ^but we can't find out. There
doesn't seem any — ^any sense in things — in going on.
What's it for? One isn't happy. Not boys like me.
Clever splendid people like Priitwitz — or bad strong
people like Kurt — they're happy. Because people love
them— or they're frightened. But people like Karl —
and me — ^we're no good — ^we can't pass our exams —
we can't ever be happy — all our lives."
"But God made every one," she said, with childish
"He couldn't have done — not if He was God.
There'd be no sense in making Karl — ^just to kill
"Karl killed himself. The Pastor says it's almost
the wickedest thing of all."
TOWARDS MORNING i2i
"My mother — said it was the only thing he could
have done — ^because he'd disgraced himself. People in
our position mustn't live after they're disgraced, she
He turned drearily towards her and they stared
into each other's eyes like antagonists who will not let
each other go. Hers were hot with indignation. He
began to falter under them. His mouth quivered. On
the heels of this ruthless philosophy came the slow,
And in an instant she was holdmg him to her with
all her strength.
"Oh, Helmutchen, you're such a little, silly boy.
And I'm littler — ^and not clever — I can't do lessons —
not fine ones like yours. I shan't ever be able to do
an)rthing wonderful. I shall just work in the fields
as long as I live. But Tm happy — and I know you're
silly — I know — I know — I know."
He clung to her, sobbing, fighting her with all his
"You say that — ^because you're just a girl — you
don't know about things — ^about life — and exams.
You don't understand. They haven't taught you."
"No, they haven't!" Fiercely she tossed up her
small round head. "And they never shall. I don't
know who they are, but they must be wicked people —
and I wouldn't believe them — not if they were right
Every one ought to be happy. I'm happy. I will be
happy. When things are sad I shall know that God
wishes it and that in the end it will be all right. My
grandfather and grandmother are old people — ^and
they're not clever a bit, and they've never done any
one any harm. But they're always smiling and jolly.
That's because they love each other and are good.
.122 TOWARDS lAORNING
People make jokes about them — because they're so
old and love each other so much/'
"Perhaps loving people makes it worth while/' Hel-
mut said wistfully.
"Why— and I love you, Helmut/'
He was silent for a moment, loc^ng away from
her, red to the roots of his flaxen hair.
"And I love you, too, Lenchen."
They did not speak again for a long time. Sud-
denly all the storm and stress and tumult had gone.
They sat like little birds, huddled close together, shoul-
der to shoulder, their arms interlocked, and gazed
peacefully out over the world beneath them. It was
so still that there seemed to be no one else alive. But
the shadows were rising fast up the mountain side.
Only the peaks were still golden. Westwards red
clouds hung like smoke over a smouldering furnace.
The glow was on their young, upturned faces.
"P'r'aps, when you're gone you'll forget poor
Lenchen," she whispered.
"No — I never will. I've never had any one before
—only Heini and Fritz Schnautzchen. And they
burnt Heini — and Schnautzchen is so old he doesn't
care any more. There'll never be any one else but
"""And then when you're a big man you'll come back
and marry me ?"
"Yesr— dear, dear Lenchen."
"And then everything will be all right. Hans will
let us have the little Bauemhaus and we'll live there
together and be happy. You won't have to be clever
or worry about lessons any more. We'll keep pigs
and fowls and work in the fields with Hans. And
TOWARDS MORNING 123
when we have little boys and girls of our own they
shan't ever be unhappy like poor Schultz."
"No," he said gently.
"It's only a few years, Helmut. And they go faster
and faster. It isn't long to wait. I'm nine and you're
nearly eleven — let's say quite eleven. We could marry
when you're twenty, couldn't we? That's only nine
years. To-day nine years you'll come up the path to
our house and I shall meet you on the doorstep and
say, *Here I am ! How big you've grown, Helmut !' "
He laughed shyly.
"And I shall say, 'How pretty you are, Lenchen !' "
"And you won't have to mind when they bully you
or laugh at you in class — or when you're just a com-
mon soldier. You'll just say to yourself, 'It doesn't
matter. It's all silly nonsense. I must be good and
kind.' And then you must count up the days and
see how long it is before you can come "
'You won't love any one else, Lenchen?"
'Never — ^never. We shall be so happy."
He believed it. He believed everything. It was as
though sunshine had come after a long, bitter night
and thawed the hard unbelief in his heart. Ever
since she had said, "I love you, Helmut," everything
had been clear to him. He knew that after all he
would go back and not even be afraid. He would
face the Geheimrat and the Geheimratin — ^and Kurt —
and his mother's and father's grief and shame. He
was glad now to think that they couldn't kill him.
He would go through with the crammer's. He would
be a failure, but he would be happy.
"We're engaged people, aren't we, Lenchen ?"
"Yes — of course we are."
"And engaged people give each other things. Look
124 TOWARDS MORNING
— I brought this for you/' From his blouse he pro-
duced the crushed and faded nosegay. "And there's
a poem inside. I wrote it — ^all by myself — for you."
"Oh, Helmut, how sweet of you! I shall keep it
always — ^until you come."
They looked deep into each other's eyes — ^smiling.
Afterwards they walked soberly down the mountain
path, hand in hand. It was dusk in the forest. They
were two shadows in a temple with high, mysterious
columns that lost themselves in a whispering 'dome.
But far away between the stark stems of the trees
they caught the red glint of the sun.
[Where the path ran into the Roman highroad a
giaunt crucifix stood up blackly against the evening
sky. There they stopped, facing one another.
"You will come back, Helmut."
"Yes— I'll come back."
She choked back a big sob.
"God bless you, Helmut, darling."
"God bless you, dear Lenchen."
She put her arms round his neck and kissed him
and wept. And he held her close to him and com-
She bent over him, shielding the candle-light with
her hand. There must have been a draught from
the open door — or else her hand shook for the thin
flame waved to and fro distractedly like a red rag
in the wind. "Helmut!** she whispered again. It
was as though she did not really want to wake him.
He lay there, on his back, half-dressed, a trousered
leg sprawling out from underneath the grotesque
white plumeau. His mouth hung open and he was
breathing noisily. Of a purpose she kept his face
in shadow. "It's time, Helmut — four o'clock," she
insisted in the same constrained undertone.
He did not move and she took him by the shoulder
and shook him — reluctantly, almost with repugnance.
He stirred at last and blinked up at her.
"Oh, all right, don't fuss — I'm getting up."
He wriggled his shoulder free and turned sullenly
to the wall. She put the light down on the dressing-
table in the midst of a sordid disarray of half-dirty
collars and crumpled ties, and went out as she had
come, noiselessly, as though from the presence of
grave sickness. In the dining-room the Herr Amt-
126 TOWARDS MORNING
schrdber waited for her. He, too, was half -dressed.
His braces trailed over his slippered heels and his
thin, fair hair stood fretfully on end. Like the fur-
niture in the stiff, comfortless room, he had faded
and grown old and hopeless. He did not turn as his
wife entered, but stood warming his withered hands
against the porcelain walls of the stove.
There were breakfast things laid out ready on the
table. She re-arranged them, setting out the solitary
cup and saucer, covering the steaming coffee-pot, clat-
Is — is he getting up, Clara?"
1 think so. He's awake."
^Did he seem all right?"
"He was dazed. But he understood."
"He mustn't miss the train."
"No, that would never do."
She gathered her flannel dressing-gown closer about
her heavy body, shivering with sudden cold, and
came over to her husband's side. They did not look
at one another. With the sound of movement in the
adjoining room they started and grew tense, listening,
wincing at each blundering, uncertain foot-fall.
Presently the sounds grew nearer. There was a
finality about them and the two grey figures braced
themselves. As the door opened the Herr Amt-
schreiber turned, rubbing his hands in an agony of
"As ready as I ever shall be."
He was in fact fully dressed, with hat and over-
coat. But his clothes, at best ugly and clumsy, had
now a wretched, debauched look, as though they knew
their own hideousness and were ashamed past hope.
TOWARDS MORNING 127
Their wearer tossed down his cloth-covered suit-case
and came over to the table. His eyes were doggedly
lowered; in the lamp-light his face glistened with a
His mother fussed over the breakfast things.
"You'll be late, Helmut. It would never do to be
He muttered something and sat down and began
to eat. They hovered about him uneasily. They
made little sentences — ^about his train, about the
weather, about his journey, but he did not answer,
and they fell silent. Perhaps he felt how terribly
they loved him — how terribly they longed for him to
be gone. He gulped at his food as though it hurt
his throat. At last he stood up, pushing back his
"I've had enough. Fd better be off."
They both took a deep breath, nerving themselves
for the plunge. Something that the Herr Amtschreib-
er was trying to say twitched at the muscles of his
face. His wife laid her hand with a hard, stiff ten-
derness on the boy's arm.
"I've packed all your warm things, Helmut."
"You must write regularly — ^and let us know."
"Oh, yes— of course."
The words tumbled suddenly from the Herr Amt-
"Head up, Helmut. Mustn't be too down-hearted.
After all, if you do your duty, in whatever ^here, if
you are honest and obedient and loyal, no one has a
right to reproach you — ^at least, we don't — we — ^your
He broke off waveringly. The boy lifted his heavy
eyes. His mouth quivered as though he too were on
128 TOWARDS MORNING
the verge of some outburst— of appeal, of gratitude
or love. But the hard, strong hand on his arm tight-
ened so that he felt the impress of each separate
"Only we do ask, we do expect, Helmut, that you
will remember who we are, that you won't bring
shame or disgrace on us. Last night — ^Helmut — ^an
official's son — it doesn't do. Think of our position.
If your poor father were forced to retire now — ^and
perhaps next year he will get an Order."
His eyes were sullen and defiant.
"Well, what have I done? We had a q)ree at the
Erbprinzen. Why shouldn't I have my fling like
every one else? Kurt did. Kurt had a good time."
"But— don't you see — that was different? Kurt
had got his commission "
"And he'll have a good time often. And I shan't
"You mustn't take it like that, Helmut. It's
But their protest flickered out. They watched him
helplessly as he gathered up his things. They were
unhappy. They ached with sorrow for him, but it
was a dull ache that had no voice. And mixed with
it was an antagonism — z brooding resentment. They
could not forget that he had broken the sacred tradi-
tion that governed all their life.
"Well, good-bye." He kissed them both — ^roughly,
hiding his face. "There, you don't need to worry. I
won't do anything. I promise. I — ^I'm awfully sorry
— ^about last night — ^and everjrthing. It's hard on you
They clung to him. But their agitated affection
could not hide that they were glad that the parting
TOWARDS MORNING 129
had nearly come, glad that it was so early and that
they would not have to accompany him to flie sta-
tion — ^that no one would see him go.
"Try and please your under-officer, Helmut. He's
the man that matters."
He shook himself free from their futile, fluttering
hands. He was brutal in his impatience. They called
after him as he stumbled down the dark stairs, but
he did not answer.
They went back slowly to the stuffy dining-room.
It seemed to have grown smaller — ^greyer. There
was something poignant about the half-finished break-
fast — ^the empty chair. They could almost see the
gesture with which he had pushed it back from the
The tears rolled down Frau Felde's cheek.
"Ach, Hermann, if it had only been different! If
he had only tried a little more! What will people
think? All my family are at least officers in the
"If one does one's duty '* the Herr Amtschreib-
er began listlessly, without conviction.
"Our poor Helmut !"
And yet they drew their breath more easily now
that he had gone. It was all over. For two years
there would be nothing to hope or fear. There would
be no more bitter hours of anxiety, wondering wheth-
er or not Helmut would again be sitsen geblieben in
the fatal untersecunda. That question was settled for
all time. And those wretched months when he had
"bummeled** — ^the "rest-cure" which was to establish
him as a pardonable invalid in the eyes of incredulous,
I30 TOWARDS MORNING
spiteful colleagues and their no less incredulous and
spiteful wives — ^that was over too.
All the humbugging and pretence — ^finished with.
They were disgraced. But it could never be worse
than it was now, and at least their disgrace was out
Frau Felde wiped away her tears.
"After all, perhaps he doesn't care. He hasn't
much feeling — ^no class honour— our poor Helmut!
And as Herr Bemhard said, there is always America
—or the colonies."
The street door clanged. The sound hushed them.
It was so dolorous and final. They sat still and lis-
tened to the slow, heavy footsteps pass down the
sleeping street into silence.
There were twenty of them in the carriage. They
were packed so close together on the hard wooden
benches that they could scarcely move their arms, and
the atmosphere was thick with smoke and pungent
with the smell of human bodies. They were men of
many classes, many conditions. Between the burly,
smooth-jowled peasant in his black broad-cloth and
mole-skin waistcoat and the narrow-chested youth in
his town shoddy there was but one thing in common —
the gay ribbons that streamed from their caps and
adorned the handles of their walking-sticks. That
marked their common destiny. For all that they
looked about them with suspicion, with a dull dis-
trust, trying to measure each other without self-
TOWARDS MORNING 131
The big peasant produced an embroidered velvet
case and selected a cigar deliberately. He alone had
an air of assurance — ^almost of arrogance. The eyes
turned dumbly in his direction, and he met them with
a bovine stolidity.
"Have one!" he said.
They gave a rumbling growl by way of answer.
The case went the round and they helped themselves.
Alone, the boy seated in the far corner refused. He
shook his head, staring out of the window. His
neighbour laughed and nudged him.
"Don't, then. So much the more for me."
And slipped a second cigar into his breast pocket.
Matches were struck. There was a general stir-
ring, a clearing of throats — ^vague, inarticulate noises
verging on speech. The peasant blew great rings of
smoke into the thickening atmosphere and squared his
"Fm from Titisee," he announced. "My name is
Veit Thomas. My father owns the Schlangenbauem
Hof on the hill-side. I am joining up with the forty-
fifth at Berghausen. My father was Gefreite in the
Regiment forty years ago."
They stared at him respectfully. His neighbour
took courage. He even swaggered a little.
"My father is Oberbahnwarter at Rastatt," he said.
"It's not a bad little nest. One can have a good time
there. And there's Baden-Baden when one wants a
Their tongues were loosened. They began to vie
with each other. They made their announcements
with a kind of defiance, as though once and for all
they were trying to establish their position. Alone the
Grossbauer's son listened in unmoved silence.
132 TOWARDS MORNING
"My father owns forty acres and twelve cows and
fifty pigs," he said finally. "For two hundred years
my people have owned the Hof. That's better than
The man with the narrow chest took up the chal-
lenge. He threw out his hands in an angry, nervous
"Two hundred years!" he shouted. "That's just
like a peasant, sticking to the same place, never mov-
ing, never changing. It's you that stop progress. You
block our way. We can't move because you're al-
ways there, like a drag on the wheel. I'm a mechani-
cian. I'm from Mannheim. I tell you we move — ^we
know what's going on in the world — ^aye, and we see
that things go the right way. We working men —
we're the future — ^that's what we are, and one of these
days you'll have to wake up or clear out — ^you damned
The peasant stared contemptuously, but he was
slow-witted or perhaps he did not think it worth while
to answer. The mechanician leant forward and
tapped the boy opposite him on the knee. There was
something feverish and perpetually angry about the
man. His sunken eyes were penetrating, bitter and
intolerant. "And what's your pedigree, comrade?"
The boy turned slowly as though waking from a
dream. All eyes were fixed on him, for he alone had
not spoken. Something indefinable separated him
from the rest. They felt it and waited loweringly.
He flushed scarlet.
"My name's Felde," he stammered.
"That's not sa3dng much. What's your father ?"
TOWARDS MORNING 133
"Oh, well, we're all officials more or less. Speak
up, comrade. Don't be so damned superior."
"My — ^my father is Amtschreiber at Karlstadt."
Some one whistled.
"Herr Jel Einjahrige also?"
There was a silence. He looked from one to an-
other with a kind of defiance that was also a sort of
apology and appeal. But their faces were hard. They
considered him dully, curiously, as though he belonged
to another race.
"If your father is Amtschreiber why aren't you
Einjahrige?" the Mannheimer persisted pitilessly.
I failed — ^I couldn't pass the exam — — "
Then you don't need to be so damned superior. I
hate the middle class crowd worse than the peasants,
but a Bourgeois who is a fool into the bargain !"
He spat viciously. "Don't you give yourself airs here,
anyhow," he threatened.
Some one intervened pacifically.
^Let's have a song, comrades."
The proposer, who obviously considered that he
had a voice, started: "Deutschland iiber alles" but
the Mannheimer broke out with a loud oath.
"That's enough of that anyhow. Haven't you got
two ideas in your heads, you sheep? 'Deutschland
iiber alles'! Ach, you make me sick. Every cock
crowing on its own dirty muck-heap. I tell you what,
we — we Proletariat — ^we've had enough of that stuff.
What's Germany to tis — or England, or any blasted
country? We workers hang together all over the
world. The Proletariat over the Capitalist and the
134 TOWARDS MORNING
Imperialist and all the other scoundrels— tbat^s my
The Grossbauer narrowed his small eyes arro-
"I've heard of your sort. We don't breed them up
our way. God be praised. I'm a Kaiser's man — I'm
for the Empire/'
"You would be. You look it But your day's com-
ing, all right We've had enough of you — and your
You'll talk like that to the Herm Offizieren, eh?"
Yes — ^I will. I'm not afraid. I don't care for
any man alive. I'll say what I think — ^straight in
their ugly faces. I'll put the fear of God in them.
I've got six million comrades behind me, I tell you,
and if they try any monkey tricks "
''Achwast Silly stuff!"
The Mannheimer leant forward, shaking his fist.
"You call it silly? You wait — ^you Reichsgisinnr
ten! You try another war on us. Then you'll see.
It's we who've won your wars for you. But we're
not going to win any more. We're not going to
butcher our brother Proletariat to fill your greedy
stomachs. No! There'll be no more hip-hip-hurrah-
ing — ^no more of your precious 'Deutschland iiber
His peaceably inclined neighbour produced a bottle
from under the seat
"Have a drink, comrade ?"
The storm died down. The bottle went the round.
There was a grunting and smacking of lips. They
wiped their mouths on the back of their hands and
winked at each other with a stupid new-found friend-
liness. The Grossbauer drank to the Old Regiment
TOWARDS MORNING 135
and the Mannheimer to his brothers over the whole
world in mutual toleration.
'Tfour turn, my Hochwohlgeborene Herr FeldeT
The boy hesitated. His face was wet with nausea.
But they were watching him. The Mannheimer bowed
mockingly. With a silly laugh he snatched the bot-
tle, and, tilting it, drank to the last evil-tasting dregs.
A door burst open. With a frightened jerk the
muffled snores and stentorian breathing broke off
and an instant later the darkness writhed convulsively
in the throes of returning consciousness. Distracted
groping legs waved ludicrously from the upper
berths ; bodies tumbled to the floor like heavy, drunken
spiders shaken from their webs. The voice grew
angrier, flinging itself into obscure comers like a
terrier hunting out a skulking rat.
'' * Rails! Rous, ihr Lumpen!' "
Then some one sn2Cf)ped an electric switch.
It was as though a crude searchlight had been
turned on to a rudely disturbed ant-heap.
Helmut had already lurched to his feet. He was
blind with sleep, and yet he was sure that he had
not slept. He was sure he had heard every sound in
that endless night. But a fretful drowsiness had dis-
torted the animal sighs and groans, the twitching of
over-exhausted bodies, the cursings of uneasy sleep-
ers into a nightmare which persisted. Even now the
reality was unreal. He hardly knew where he was.
But he did know that there was something imperative
behind that voice, driving him to hurry — ^to hurry
He fumbled into his clothes. His fingers were stiff
TOWARDS MORNING 137
and swollen and unmanageable. His body ached.
With the hours the straw sack had seemed to wear to
nothing under him, leaving him on the bare board.
The chilly stuffiness of the narrow, ill-ventilated room
had crept into his very bones.
"Now then — ^bustle, can't you?**
The Gefreite bellowed his way up and down the
dormitory. Helmut's neighbour, struggling with an
unfamiliar uniform, lurched against him and they
cursed each other childishly. A tense excitement pos-
sessed them all. Half-naked men, their backs glisten-
ing wet under the light, ran hither and thither, the
Gefreite hunting viciously at their heels. But there
was purpose in the apparent confusion — sl tight-jawed,
ruthless order that reckoned every breath and gave
no quarter. They waited one behind the other at
the washbowls. So many seconds for each man.
Neither less nor more. The Oberbahnwarter's son
from Rastatt stood in front of Helmut. Perhaps the
irritable watching eyes troubled him — ^perhaps wash-
ing itself. He was slow and clumsy and the line be-
hind him muttered and fidgetted. They jostled each
other. A hard-knuckled fist poked into Helmut's
ribs. The suppressed frenzy of impatience ran like
a fire over dry grass. Suddenly Helmut kicked out
savagely. The heavy military boot jarred against the
boy's shin and he staggered back whimpering, half-
blind with pain and soap.
They took no notice of him. They jostled Helmut
into his place.
"Get on with it— you !"
"My bayonet — some one has taken my bayonet !'*
They found time to snigger. It was the company's
Einjahrige. He stood aloof, already dressed in his
138 TOWARDS MORNING
well-cut tiniform, his long aristocratic face drawn into
lines of petulant indignation.
The, Gefreite, watch in hand, shouted at him.
"Damn your bayonet! Who the devil wants to
steal your bayonet?"
"I shall complain to the Herr Feldwebel "
"Complain, then! Get the whole company into
trouble. Try it on — ^that's all, my fine gentleman !"
The victim, on the verge of a furious outburst,
composed himself, shrugging contemptuously.
"Here's five marks on the table. The man who
returns my bayonet can have them."
They appeared to take no notice of him. He con-
tinued to dress with an effective deliberation.
Helmut flung himself into his tunic. He knew the
routine now. At a certain moment a certain button
or one was lost. At a certain moment one had to be
ready at one's bed-side. Then the clothes would be
tossed out, shaken, replaced, tucked in with a meticu-
lous accuracy almost as though to the beat of a grim
music. But they were too new to their task. The
Gefreite, like some exasperated sheep-dog, yapped at
their heels, tearing down their failures with a snarl-
"You dirty swine ! One can see what pig-sties you
came from. Wait, though — ^I'U show you "
But he himself had the look of something himted.
Gradually the pandemonium subsided. The or-
derly of the day appeared staggering between two
pails of steaming coffee. The soldiers dipped in their
metal bowls and drank noisily, their eyes fixed on the
Gefreite, whose lips moved with the seconds.
A heavy step sounded in the corridor.
In a flash the emptied bowls vanished into the
TOWARDS MORNING 139
lockers. The Einjahrige snatched up his missing bay-
onet from under the bed and was buckling his belt
just as the newcomer loomed up in the open doorway.
It was quite still. The whirlwind had dropped
each man, each thing in place. They stood in a
straight row with blank faces and fixed, staring eyes,
the middle finger of each hand pressed anxiously to
the outer seams of their trousers. The diflFerences
that divided them had somehow been rubbed out.
The Gef reite and the Oberbahnwarter's son had faded
into each other's shadows.
'Everything in order?"
'Zu Befehl, Herr Feldweheir
The burly figure moved heavily down the motion-
less line. The Herr Feldwebel was red-faced, bull-
necked. The blond, carefully-tended moustache lay
flat like tiny spread fans against the full cheeks. His
eyes were small and sharp. They flashed over each
man like a hungly knife, eager to cut.
And suddenly Helmut's heart seemed to stand still
in his breast. The top button of his tunic — ^it had
come . unfastened — or he had forgotten it. He felt
it like a loathsome sore which spread and spread
over his whole body. And it was too late. If a
snake had been about to strike him he could not have
moved to save himself.
Fear again. The old fear— -of an exam or of a for-
The Feldwebel stopped short. He seemed to sweU
"You call this being in order!"
The Gef reite standing stiff as a ram-rod at his
elbow threw Helmut a glance of bitterest dislike.
I40 TOWARDS MORNING
^'Verzeihung, Herr FeldweheL'*
"A pretty sight for the Herr Lieutenants. A slov-
enly lot. This sort of thing can't go on. Two hours
extra drill for the whole platoon. Tm not here to do
your dirty work for you, Gefreite. Verstanden?"
"Zu Befehl, Herr Feldwebeir
"Right about I"
The stiff line was violently galvanised into life.
Twenty-five men pirouetted on their heels, clumsily,
unsteadily, like marionettes dangling from an as yet
The little lieutenant Miiller turned up the red col-
lar of his great coat, thrust his hands deep into his
pockets and stamped his feet. He made a funny grim-
ace as though he were reassuring himself as to the
continued existence of all his features.
If I were you," he jerked out good-naturedly,
rd let the beggars go. Two hours parade step, ^ear
God in heaven! No joke. Bones must be rattling
like castanets. Not to mention my feet — ^nearly fro-
As he spoke an icy wind chased across the Kaserne
Hof and flung itself on the luckless Platoon No. 12
as though it meant to bowl them over. The rest of
the company had long since been dismissed, and in
the empty square the handful of men had a forlorn,
The second officer shrugged his shoulders. He was
tall and sparely built and the movement accentuated
his resemblance to some aristocratic, temporarily in-
active bird of prey.
TOWARDS MORNING 141
"We have a certain reputation with regard to new-
comers," he remarked. "Having so recently joined,
you are perhaps not aware that we reckon to be
through with our raw material three months sooner
than any other Regiment — cold feet notwithstanding.
Each Regiment its own foible, nicht wdhr, liebe
The question was faintly stressed as though it cov-
ered a second meaning not altogether agreeable. The
little lieutenant flushed hotly so that his face was
even redder than it had been before.
"Naturally. Let us proceed by all means."
Oberleutnant von Steuban motioned to the Feld-
webel, who stood at a respectful distance, and an
order was roared across the Kaseme Hof . The first
man in the line jerked forward alone. He moved like
a mechanical toy that is not quite in order. In harsh
rhythm his legs shot out, almost at the horizontal, the
feet comically pointed, and came down rigid, with a
jarring thud that shook his whole body. It was the
Mannheimer. His thin face had a sullen, resentful
look. But he was trying desperately. His uniform,
a size too big for him, flapped about his meagre body
and his bayonet dangling from an over-ample belt,
danced like a possessed thing at his side.
The Feldwebel kept pace with him, gesticulating vo-
ciferously, as though he had been the trainer of a
troupe of performing animals.
Two paces from where the officers stood the man
came to a halt — ^abruptly, nearly throwing himself off
his feet. The mechanism apparently had run down.
Oberleutnant von Steuban fixed his eye-glass with
a fur-gloved hand.
''Herr GottI Bow-legged, too. What do they
142 TOWARDS MORNING
mean by shifting these deformities on to us? Haven't
we any line regiments for such stuff? The next, in
In due course the next arrived at his comrade's side.
The rest followed. Though it was a bitter November
morning and they wore no overcoats they dripped
with sweat. Their knees shook under them.
Helmut came last of all. It was like the old days
when he had tried to walk past the Oberlehrer's desk
without stumbling. His legs did not belong to him.
They did what they liked. But he was taller than his
companions, better built, and, though he did not know
it, there was a grace in his slim young body.
When he stopped at last the beads of perspiration
rolled down his cheeks to the corners of the smooth,
quivering upper lip. He held himself tense for the
abuse that was to come to him.
To his amazement the little lieutenant nodded.
^^Es gehtschon. Stramme Kerl! The makings of
a good soldier there, eh?"
Helmut heard. And he could not help himself. He
glanced towards the speaker, flushed with happiness,
'Stramtn stehen!" the Feldwebel roared indignantly.
In our Regiment we do not indulge in good and
bad soldiers," von Steuban observed. ''We have sol-
diers. That is enough. Our idea is conformity —
uniformity." The glint of malice died out of his
wooden face. He yawned.
''And the fellow has such a damned unmilitary ex-
pression," he added.
TOWARDS MORNING 143
They judged that he was now fit to go out into the
world. At least he could meet an officer without
bringing discredit on the discipline of the whole army.
For hours together they had set him to practise the
encounter and he was as near perfection as the Herr
Feldwebel Kahn considered possible for a raw re-
cruit. It was an exact business. At three paces dis-
tance you stiffened to a ram-rod, threw out your
chest, jerked up your hand to your cap, the elbow
well out, your head half -turned; with your eyes fixed
immovably but expressionlessly on your object you
proceeded another six paces by which time you were
calculated to be well past and out of sight. You then
relaxed smartly and the crisis was over.
The only real difficulty lay in counting your paces.
Helmut stood by the Kaseme gates. He had longed
hungrily for this moment. It had seemed to him that
if only he could get away from those perpetually
watching eyes — from the proximity of other human
bodies, he would be happy. Every day he had thrown
wistful glances at the broad white road outside. He
had thought about it at night and gradually it had
become a symbol of old fancies that as the years
passed had grown wan and dim as ghosts. There
had been something splendid and adventurous about
it — ^as though perhaps it led to a new country. But
now he stood there and realised that it was just an
ordinary road after all. To the right it led to Mann-
heim ; to the left it ran through the insignificant Gar-
rison town. He knew the town already by hearsay.
There were a few dubious shops, a couple of public-
houses, multitudes of bare-footed children playing in
1-44 TOWARDS MORNING
the gutters. There were other things, too— barely
hinted at, though with winks and sidelong glances.
He had not understood, and no one had enlightened
him, because, after all, he did not belong — ^he was an
There was nowhere for him to go— nothing for
him to do. It was odd how isolated he felt. He had
hated those jostling, ubiquitous bodies, but in their
midst he had been warm and assured. There had
been no choice, no doubt, no thought or questioning or
remembrance. He had been a mere animal among
other animals that suffered fatigue and htmger, that
enjoyed food and rest.
Now for a few hours he could choose, think and
remember. And it was as though a secret prop had
been cunningly withdrawn so that he should know its
strength. His golden freedom had turned to lead in
his hands. He would have been glad if the Feld-
webel had come out and shouted to him to go here
Two Einjahriges swaggered out of the barracks.
One of them was the boy from Helmut's platoon. He
wore a fine new uniform that fitted his well-grown
body creaselessly. There was an air of insolent well-
being about them both.
Helmut watched them wistfully as they stopped for
a moment to draw on their white gloves. The desire
for companionship — for a word with equals who
spoke his language, who would not look upon him
with distrust and hatred, almost choked him. A wild
impulse seized him. He would go up to them and
say : "Excuse me, Herr Kamerad, my name is Felde.
My father is Amtschreiber at Karlstadt. I was in
the Gymnasium — if I might be allowed **
TOWARDS MORNING 14S
The little rehearsal died in his heart. He would
have to explain. He thought of how they would look
at him— -of the contempt they would hide behind a
glacial courtesy. He went red with shame. Much
better that they should think he was just one of these
"Gemeine Kerls" who stole bayonets and exacted ran-
som. In any case, in five weeks they would go into
their own quarters. The period of disgusting inti-
macy with the herd would be over.
The two young men walked on. It was evident
that they had a purpose. Possibly they were invited
out. The Einjahriges were in great demand amongst
such gentry as the little town boasted. They did not
so much as glance at Helmut as they passed. But the
two sentries watched him. Their dull faces were ex-
pressionless and yet he was sure that they were laugh-
ing at his indecision. He had turned away, shamed
into some sort of initiative, when a voice hailed him
and he looked back willingly, almost thankfully.
A soldier who had come out of the house opposite
the barracks, beckoned to him.
"Hi, comrade, where are you off to so fast ?"
"I don't know.''
"Well, that isn't a very interesting place to get to,"
the soldier grinned at him good-naturedly. He was
a squat, red-faced little fellow with sly, twinkling
eyes. "I suppose you don't know your way about
here yet ?"
"No— it's my first day out."
"Hm. Well, it's a dirty little nest. It's better for
the Herr Offizieren, they can skip over sometimes to
Mannheim to their wives — or such like. And they've
their Casino." He nodded towards the red-brick
building across the way. "Fine doings there, some-
146 TOWARDS MORNING
times, I can tell you. Tm orderly to Oberleatnaxtt
Ton Steuban, and I know. But you can't blame 'em.
A place like this is enough to bedevil a saint No
womenfolk; can't get a decent place for them to live
in. What women there are — ^well, villagers and such
like — they're more for our sort, eh?"
In a sudden revulsion of feeling Helmut longed
again to be alone. He was conscious of something
«gnificant in the man's manner, as though what he
said was only a preamble. And yet he was friendly,
too. And friendliness had become so rare. He turned
and walked at his companion's side.
"I suppose you're in your second year?" he asked,
and hardly knew how hard he tried to roughen his
accent into tune with the man's broad dialect.
"To be sure. Shouldn't be an orderly otherwise.
It's a soft job. Mind you put in for it when your
time comes. There'll be a regular competition for a
smart, good-loddng chap like you. And you can get
your man, too, with a bit of luck."
"I shouldn't have chosen von Steuban," Helmut re-
The man laughed.
"Oh, I don't know. One can get round him. He's
a hard nut, of course. But then he's bound to be. If
he isn't there's sure to be a harder nut on top to
crack him. We're a fine regiment The smartest in
the division. We cut up best at the last Manoeuvres.
The inspecting general said so. We've got a reputa-
tion to keep up."
"I'd choose Leutnant Miiller," Helmut considered.
His companion stopped short to stare at him. His
twinkling eyes had grown round and stony-looking.
"Well, if you think that, keep your mouth shut,
TOWARDS MORNING 147
that's all. We don't want any Miillers in this fo-
ment. Till two years ago we didn't have even an
Einjahrige less than a count And now, Pfui Teu^
fel!" He spat to emphasise his disgust "Miiller,
Helmut was silent. His whole life taught him
that the man's judgment was irrefutable. And yet
the little lieutenant had said : "Fine fellow !" and had
even smiled at him.
"He seemed — rather decent," he defended doubt-
The soldier shrugged.
"Maybe. We don't want him. That's all. He
can take himself over to the One Hundred and Four-
teenth. They have Miillers like the sand on the sea.
Have to number 'em, so I'm told. Well, we shan't
keep ours very long. We had another like him last
year — God knows how he got in — ^but we got him out
again double quick. Praised him out The Colonel
wrote such glowing reports of him that nothing would
satisfy Berlin but to have him at Headquarters." He
burst out laughing. "And we'll get our little Miiller
out soon — freeze him out — or kick him out — some-
how. Pass aufr Helmut did not answer. Though
he saw as clearly as anybody how out of place the
little officer was in such a regiment, yet the thought
of his humiliation made him feel tired and dispirited.
Suddenly his companion nudged him. "Got any
"Why, yes — ^a few marks."
The man nodded. His eyes narrowed craftily. He
looked round at Helmut, and there was something
148 TOWARDS MORNING
unexpectedly bestial in the expression on his round,
"That's good. After all, one has to have a good
time somehow. If one knows the ropes it isn't so
bad— even in this damned nest. I tell you what, com-
rade, you ought to make friends — ^join up with a lot
of other fellows. And a girl — ^there are some jolly
fine ones wanting to be knocked off the perch by a
fellow like you." They had come back to the gates
of the barracks where a little group of soldiers had
gathered— evidently waiting. Helmut recognised
them. There were men of his platoon among them —
the peasant Thomas and the Oberbahnwarter's son
and the Mannheimer. They were watching Hehnut
and his companion with a sort of subdued excitement
The latter nodded towards them. "All right. Wait a
bit. Look here, comrade, Fm taking these fellows
to a place I know — ^just outside — it's a sort of club —
none of your silly Sing Vereins. It's a private concern.
One can have a fine time there. I tell you about it
because you look a decent sort. And look here, I'll
introduce you to a girl — sl real high-stepper — it won't
cost you much — sl fine fellow like you."
The boy stopped short A red wave of shame and
anger blinded him. He could have struck his com-
panion. And yet he was afraid. Fear galloped in his
blood. The man had plunged his hand down into the
depths of him and outraged the innermost dweller —
dragged it to light — ^the sleeper from whose threshold
he had turned again and again in awe and terror — as
though he knew that on the manner of its waking de-
pended his whole life.
And now — ^this man — ^with his dirty, ruthless
TOWARDS MORNING 149
The Oberbahnwarter's son beckoned good-
"Come on, Felde!"
He liked the little fellow. He was kindly and bore
no malice. Helmut remembered remorsefully how
he had kicked him. And these men were his only
companions. His lot was bound up inextricably with
theirs. If he went with them now he would never
be alone again. There would be no more distrust and
hatred and persecution. He would be one of them.
"Come on, comrade.''
But he held back.
"I— I don't think I will— IM rather not "
Intolerably virtuous and superior. He flinched
guiltily under their eyes. The Mannheimer laughed
"Leave him alone. Let him go his own way. We
don't want him — ^the beastly Bourgeois spy!"
The soldier considered Helmut for a moment. The
good nature had gone out of his red face. It was
stiff with spite.
"Dumme Junge!" he spat out.
They left him there. He watched them as they
went on their way towards the town. Well-conducted,
decent fellows they seemed. He heard them laugh-
When they were out of sight he went back slowly
through the barrack gates.
Thereafter war — pitiless and unscrupulous — ^was
declared against him. They hated the Einjdhrige, but
ISO TOWARDS MORNING
he was a bird of passage who could buy respect and
would one day be able to enforce it. They could
torment him, but his utter contempt for them lifted
him out of the range of their spite. But Helmut — 3,
despised member, an alien caste — ^who would never be
able to buy or enforce anything — who had lost his
right to trample on them — ^was fair game. Now that
he had refused their tentative offer of comradeship
their resentment became implacable.
Articles of his equipment vanished daily. In his
presence they would fall into the cruel isolating si-
lence of persecuting children or nudge each other and
titter and whisper. They jostled him from his place
at the washbowl so that his unreadiness at inspection
brought him into incessant disgrace. At night a teas-
ing whisper rose up about him. An obscene, weird
word would drop through the darkness together with
his name and a subdued, waspish hum of laughter.
Most of all the Mannheimer hated him. The man
lived on hatred — burnt with it. It was as though he
knew that Helmut, alone among his comrades, recog-
nised the pitiful contrast between his violent denun-
ciations of authority and his grotesque efforts on the
parade-ground. Shame drove him to a persistent
"You wait!" he vociferated, as they sat polishing
their accoutrements after the evening drill. 'Tfou
wait! Fm biding my time — ^that's all. One doesn't
bang one's head against a brick wall— one mines it
and blows it up — suddenly. Let them keep on at
their monkey tricks with me. I'll dance their tune so
long as I choose to. So much the worse for them.
The time's coming when we proletariats will set them
dancing. I can wait until then." Then he looked at
TOWARDS MORNING 151
Helmut with his sunken, furious eyes. "Do you hear
that, you Bourgeois swine? I can wait " Hehnut
made no answer. The man stood up violently and
lurched across the room. "Can't you speak? Drop
those damned superior airs. I won't stomach them.
What do you mean by not answering ? Do you think
I'm not waiting — eh?"
"You think I'm frightened— eh ?"
"Yes— I do."
The threatening hand dropped. The Mannheimer
went back to his work. But that night there was no
whispering. The sudden blows rained on Helmut out
of darkness and almost unbroken silence. But they
were sparks that, flying wildly, touched at last on the
vein of gunpowder that ran strangely through his
They had expected a victim. They had loosed a
madman. His strength was convulsive, fearful as an
earthquake. The black invisible circle broke before
him. The bodies that clung to him, seeking to drag
him down, were wrenched off like a cluster of blood-
gorged insects. His whirling fists struck horribly into
soft, unguarded faces. The darkness became his ally,
for he had no friends to spare, but his enemies, be-
wildered by the tumult, fought among themselves,
cursing and groaning in a rising hysteria of thwarted
And then suddenly panic seized them. They fell
away from him, scuffling like frightened rats back to
So he stood alone in the centre of the dormitory,
his body stript naked, bloody and bruised, his chest
heaving in great breaths of rage and triumph.
IS2 TOWARDS MORNING
He waited. The silence was absolute. No one
challenged him. He had won — and he was alone for
ever and ever.
Stiffly he felt his way back to his berth. He
buried his face in the rough pillow, hiding the last
bitter tears of boyhood.
It was the Grossbauer's son, Veit Thomas, who
told them. He had been elected Stubendlteste, and,
thanks to the arrival of fat hampers from the Hof
above Titisee, there existed between him and the
Herr Feldwebel a subtle understanding highly agree-
able to both parties. Whoever else suffered injustice
in the platoon it was not the big peasant. Nor for
that matter did he escape justice, for even the Feld-
webel could not stop the inflexible working of the
machine — and therein lay its strength. But petty per-
secution, the additional burdens which lay in the
unteroffisiers' power to bestow, never fell to Veit
Thomas' lot. Moreover, he was the sure channel for
all the rumours and scandals of the regiment.
"Yes," he said, as he leaned against the lintel of
the dormitory window and watched the Oberbahn-
warter's son polish his boots for him with moody dis-
content. "Fifty miles is what they're going to squeeze
out of us. And if we don't play up it will cost our
little officers fifty bottles of fizz — 2l bottle for every
mile. You'll see how they'll hound us along."
The Oberbahnwarter's son lifted a white face from
"Fifty miles! Why, I've never done twenty. Fif-
teen knocked me all to bits."
"And there are to be no stragglers, either."
154 TOWARDS MORNING
Thomas nodded maliciously. ''Each straggler means
a pint less for the winners. Don't you worry — ^when
your legs fail they'll kick you along."
There was a moment's heavy silence.
"They say that General von Dering is to act as
referee," the Gef reite began, not to be outdone in supe-
rior knowledge, "and the Emperor himself is inter-
ested. Of course it's all unofficial, but you know what
that means. If we win, the Herr Oberst can be-
gin thinking about himself as Brigadier; if we don't,
he'll wake up one morning with a top-hat on. There's
no room in this world for people who don't pull a
"And what do we get out of it either way?" some
An exasperated murmur assented.
"What the devil do they mean by it ? Just because
they get drunk at a mess dinner — and brag — and
gamble. Let them gamble with their dirty money —
not with us."
The Mannheimer sprang up violently from his
berth where he had been crouching with his thin,
burnt-out face hidden in his hands.
"And if you were half men you wouldn't stand
it," he shouted at them. "If I had some of my com-
rades here, we'd soon put a stop to it. We'd strike.
We'd have some of these fine fellows up against a
Veit Thomas raised himself. He came across the
room heavily — ^menacingly.
"You stop that !" he said. *T11 not have that sort
of talk here. I'm a Kaiser's man. Besides, it's all
TOWARDS MORNING 155
gas! When the time comes your bandy legs will
step out like the rest."
They laughed irritably. The Mannheimer glared
round the circle of angry, contemptuous faces. He
shook his fist futilely.
"You wait I" he said between his teeth. **Y(m
So it came to the knowledge of the 12th Platoon
that the Grenadier Regiment stationed at Karlstadt
had backed themselves to reach a certain village mid-
way between the two garrisons, an hour sooner than
the 4Sth, and that the officers of the 4Sth had sworn
to have their men quartered before the dust of the
Grenadiers showed on the high road.
There was no official announcement. The reason
for the forced march concerned the men as little as
its destination concerns the engines of a ship. Never-
theless, the whole temper of the Regiment changed.
The exasperating monotony was gone like mist be-
fore a strong wind. The brooding, peevish faces of
the officers lit up with purpose. They moved with
quick, firm steps. The men grumbled — but now for
the first time beneath the unfeeling character of their
training there showed the stealthily forged chain
which linked man to man — officers to men. Willing
or unwilling, hating or indifferent, they were a whole.
The herd instinct, deliberately fostered, blazed up,
consuming the individual with his indolence and cow-
ardice to ashes.
The Colonel harangued the whole Regiment on
156 TOWARDS MORNING
Parade. The staccato sentences warned them that
there was to be no straggling — ^no falling out.
In the chill drizzle of a winter's morning they
swung, four deep, through the barrack gates. Each
man carried his full campaigning kit — overcoat, load-
ed haversack, and rifle. The Captains on horseback
at the head of their companies, tlie subalterns on foot
with drawn swords saluted the grim watching figure
of their Colonel.
The villagers, standing sleepily in their doorways,
waved to them. The band played them out merrily.
They marched on, singing. The first ten miles
was nothing to the rawest recruit. The rain, sodden-
ing their heavy overcoats and trickling from the rims
of their helmets was an old enemy, worse hated than
the sun, but as yet their blood was warm and their
muscles supple. Nor was the pace set sharper than
usual. It was not speed that was to bring them
They sang. When one company wearied another
caught up the refrain. To the curious marked rhythm
of their songs they rolled the miles behind them.
They looked for the mid-day rest. It did not come.
At two o'clock they knew that there was to be no
halt. They ate their rations as they marched. And
now for the first time there dawned on their stolid
faces an almost animal look of fear and trouble.
The drizzle had become a downpour. The soaked
overcoats slopped heavily against their knees. The
course of their blood, slackening in weariness, could
not stand against the penetrating cold which crept up
their limbs. Songs gave place to uneasy mutterings —
mutterings to silence.
The grey afternoon faded into twilight — ^night it-
TOWARDS MORNING 157
self. Like a black serpent the regiment wound its
way down into a narrow valley flooded with swollen
mountain streams. The first ^company churned the
slush to a sticky paste in which those who followed
slipped and staggered drunkenly. Under officers
stumbled up and down the line, flashing their electric-
torches into the dripping dead white faces, cursing
with voices broken with fatigue. Blows fell in the
darkness — ^passively received by bodies almost dead
The officers marched on immovably. They car-
ried themselves erect, with expressionless, insolent
faces, as though they stood above the reach of hun-
ger and exhaustion. Now and then a word of com-
mand slashed through the soaking obscurity like the
cut of a whip.
At first Helmut had marched willingly — ^almost
thankfully. These long marches were a strange relief
to him. Then his loneliness seemed less poignant.
One could not be happy nor unhappy. One could not
even think. One was just a body that marched and
marched. And afterwards one slept without a dream.
But now a dull anger smouldered in him. With
every leaden mile it gathered fierceness. It was as
though it fed on his wretchedness, blazing higher
and higher. He hated the men who for an idle boast
— ^bom of their own boredom — had doomed them to
this torture. He hated the stupid, will-less bodies
that lurched against him, throwing him from his
stride. He could have murdered them. It gave him
pleasure to thrust them brutally back into their places.
His inflamed fancy conjured up delicious visions of
a machine-gun mowing them down in swathes.
A light flashed. It was the little Lieutenant Miiller,
iS8 TOWARDS MORNING
Weariness had pinched his round, boyish face into
unfamiliar lines. There was a comic splash of mud
on his cheek.
"Kopf hoch. Kinder — only another mile or two—
He had come back to say that — ^he had left his
place just to encourage them — when every step
counted. Helmut wondered at the strangeness of his
^'Jawohl — Herr Leutnant!"
The lieutenant nodded and smiled.
He vanished, splashing into darkness.
The Oberbahnwarter's son marched at Hehnut's
side. Whilst daylight lasted he had kept up a sullen
silence, but now that the night hid them from each
other he weakened. Perhaps he forgot who was his
companion. But at heart he was a kindly, good-na-
tured little fellow who only ostracised Helmut be-
cause it was the easiest thing to do.
His voice sounded faint and distant.
"Do you think it will ever come to an end, com-
"Oh, yes — it can't be much further. The Herr
Leutnant said so. Is an)rthing wrong?"
"I don't know. There's a pain under my ribs. If
I stopped I should fall down."
"Give me your rifle. I am stronger than you."
"No — no, comrade."
"No one will see. Come, do as I say."
The boy sighed.
"Thank you— comrade — thank you."
Suddenly an electric wave thrilled along the stag-
gering line. They straightened up like men waking
TOWARDS MORNING 159
from a stupor. The ranks closed up. Somewhere
ahead a light glimmered.
"The signal — ^they've not arrived yet."
"Fifty miles — ^twenty-three hours."
"The Grenadiers — they say — ^two miles off."
An under-officer ran down the column bellowing
"Sing — sing, will you— <ir "
They sang. It was like a miracle. The faint sickly
light of morning shewed in the west as they thundered
into the village — ^victorious, at parade step, caked in
mud, with blank faces.
The General took their salute from the steps of
the little inn. He greeted the officers who stood about
him, stifHy erect, their hands to their helmets. Soaked
and mud-splashed as they were, they retained an in-
^^Ich gratuliere, meine Herren. Magnificent record.
The Emperor will be delighted."
It was fortunate that the Oberbahnwarter*s son
stood in the second rank. No one, except the two
men on either side of him saw him fall. He slid
down quietly, rather comically — ^like a sawdust doll
whose stuffing has run out.
They dared not move to help him. And it was only
five minutes later when the General had finished his
harangue that they knew exactly what had happened.
From the inn across the way came music. The
Grenadier band, which had come by train, was playing
a song from Der Walzetraum" —
i6o TOWARDS MORNING
'Model fein — miidel mein
Gieht sich drein, sagt nicht nein-
In the intervals they could hear voices, laughter.
They imagined the click of glasses, the warm, de-
licious flow of red wine from dusty bottles, the golden
sparkle of native Sekt, the lights and glitter and
They lay there, seeing and hearing these things
with their inflamed souls. There was no sleep.
Their bodies were agony to them — ^a dull persistent
agony which kept them tossing and twisting in the
straw with the muffled sighs of exhausted cattle.
Some one had tried to kindle a fire in the comer of
the bam and they had huddled round the pitiful blaze,
holding their stiflF, blue hands out to it in a kind of
supplication. But the wood was wet and the flames
shrivelled and grew pale, throwing up a film of smoke
through which the circle of faces showed dim and
unreal. Now the light died out wholly and each man
"My feet— my feet "
The sudden whimper stung them to fury. They
were worn threadbare. Their outer defences were
gone. Their raw nerves quivered and twitched. They
were ready to fall on each other for a word.
"Curse you ! Shut your face ! Do you think you're
the only one?"
"I've got feet, too, haven't I? Bloody feet — stuck
to my boots they have. I heard the blood squelch-
"And that damned haversack — ^I can put my fingers
in the ridges on my shoulders."
TOWARDS MORNING i6i
"Some people seem to think they've got all the
"Well, why don't they stick us where we could get
dry. It's this cold — ^it b-bites into one — like a dog's
"Much they care. Dirty devils the whole lot. If
there was a war I know whom I'd plug first"
"Animal torture — ^that's what it is."
"Bah — d'you think they'd let their horses rot in the
wet and cold ?"
"Hark at them over there with their blasted music !"
Some one giggled hysterically.
"That's out of the Walsefraum. I heard it last
year at the Summer Theatre. It's a fine song." He
began to sing in a cracked falsetto.
"Niemand kann tansen wie meine Frau,"
They screamed at him, shaking their fists.
"Stop that noise ! How is one to get to sleep ?"
"Well, we're not sleeping anyhow. Might as wefl
"To-morrow they'll march us back ^"
"Not me — ^not on my bloody stiunps — I'll see them
"Listen — they're toasting some one now."
"It's the Regiment," The speaker assumed a satir-
ical, nasal intonation. " 'Meine Herren — das vier and
funfjsigste Regiment Kaiserin Augusta — es lebe hochf
There, can't you hear *em? That's the Herr Mayor
speaking. I can see his turkey-cock face from here."
"Herr Je! The Regiment!"
An awed silence fell upon them. The storm sank.
They sat still, listening. The Grenadiers' tnunpeter
sent a deep thrilling fanfara into the night and then
i62 TOWARDS MORNING
a wave of subdued applause came across the street to
the huddled listeners.
"Drinking our healths !"
'Don't you believe it/'
Why not? We're the Regiment, too, aren't we?"
"They may well! Fifty miles in twenty-three
"An infantry regiment of the line whacking the
Grenadiers — ^ho — ho !"
"The/ve sent a telegram to the Emperor."
"Who cares ? He hasn't got blisters as big as hen's
eggs on his feet."
"I saw the Emperor once — ^at Wiesbaden — ^with his
staff. Herr Jet How they shone. The Emperor
rode down the line of troops. He said : *Good morn-
ing, soldiers !' and they shouted back : 'Good morning,
Your Majesty I' I thought I'd be glad when I was a
"My grandfather talks about the old Emperor. He
cries when he talks about him — ^he's very old now.
The Emperor pinned the cross on his breast with his
own hands. That was at Versailles in 1871. The
Cross hangs on the wall in our sitting-room but
when grandfather goes to meet his old comrades in
the Kriegerverein he wears it."
"Ah, yes — those were great days."
Their voices were growing clearer. They seemed
to be coming out of some thick, muffling fog.
"These are great days, too. People used to make
fun of us Germans. They don't laugh now."
"No— they're afraid."
"The lieutenant says that one day we shall beat
them all. God means us to— because we're stronger
and braver and can suffer more."
TOWARDS MORNING 163
"That's why they ^ut 'God with us' on the coins.
The Lord God loves brave men."
"My grandfather says it's a glorious thing to be a
German soldier and to die for one's Fatherland."
"When I go home on leave I shall wear my best
uniform. In church people will look at me. They
will nudge each other. 'There's young Brentfeld.
He's in the 45th — ^the Regiment that did fifty miles in
twenty-three hours and was congratulated by the
Emperor. My girl will be so proud. My brother was
rejected and his girl broke it off. She was ashamed."
They smiled in the darkness— each man with his
^^Ach ja — ^it's a grand thing."
A new voice broke in querulously.
"Soldiers are just cannon fodder. They, over there
— I tell you they're not thinking about us."
"But it was we who did it." He was answered
fiercely. "We did it."
We damn well had to— they made us."
Something made thetHj too. They're human —
sort of. Besides they couldn't have made us — ^not if
we hadn't meant to."
"Yes — that's queer. Look here — I'll tell you some-
thing — I meant to drop out. I made up my mind.
I didn't care — ^what's a few days' cells compared to
this? But when it came to the point I had to stick
it — I had to^something sort of got hold of me."
"Yes — ^that's it— one can't stop— one can't get out."
They brooded for a while over the thing which had
possessed them — ^which possessed them now in spite
of all their misery. Then a voice broke out again :
"Little Schneider went all the way — ^and he'd never
done twenty miles."
i64 TOWARDS MORNING
They stirred uneasily in their straw. They began
to whisper as though they were afraid of being over-
"He dropped, though, when it was all over."
"They — they say he's dead."
"He knew he couldn't do it — he told me."
"But he couldn't drop out either."
A sigh rose out of the darkness.
"Well — that's life. We Germans have got to be
strong. The weak chaps have got to be weeded out
"A good thing, too. Up at the Hof we don't breed
pigs off a rotten stock. We kill 'em off. Well, this'U
be something to tell the old man. They didn't do fifty
miles like that in his day."
" Ach, now you're beginning to brag ! A minute ago
you were ready to shoot 'em for what they've done to
us. And what are you bragging about? Because
you've stuck it like a horse that goes till he drops to
please the beast that rides him? Because the/ve
squeezed the life out of one of us — ^is that why you're
\nflating yourself, Veit Thomas? You whipped
hounds — ^you growl, but you like licking the boot that
kicks you. You'd cheer a monkey so long as he wore
a helmet and pranced to a military band. Pfuil You
make me sick."
They turned savagely towards the voice.
"Hold your tongue — ^we know all about you."
"You're a brave fellow when there's no one lode-
"Tell us about the Proletariat and how you're going
to make people walk on their heads."
"Why don't you do as you say?"
TOWARDS MORNING 165
"Yes, spit in the Herr Feldwebers face next time
you see him."
"Then pVaps we'll listen/'
They jeered hysterically. For he had laid hands on
the thing that justified and glorified their misery. If
it was not a holy, splendid thing then they were mad-
men. Their world would collapse about their ears.
There would be nothing left but their bleeding feet
and aching limbs.
The Mannheimer did not answer and they sank
into a brooding, exasperated silence.
Helmut lay with his face in his arms trying to hide
from the mingled stench of straw and dirty bodies and
saturated clothing. The wet cold had eaten through
to his bones but in the very heart of him there was
still a flicker of life— of something that thought and
reacted to exterior stimulus. And strangely enough
it was the Mannheimer who kept the flame alive.
Helmut had seen the would-be rebel's face in that
brief firelight. They had exchanged glances — sig-
nificant, deadly. The sunken, burning eyes had stared
back into his with a tragic triimiph — ^with the look
of a man who has come through shame and anguish
to some releasing, expiating purpose.
'Tou wait!" it had said. "You wait! You shan't
jeer at me again."
In the dead quiet of the village street the thud of
marching feet sounded ominous. It came nearer-
it stopped to the rattle of grounded arms. The lis-
teners rolled over with a stifled cursing.
The door flew open and a lighted lantern flashed
searchingly over their dazed faces. An under-ofiicer
followed on the heels of the lieutenant who had evi-
i66 TOWARDS MORNING
dently left the feast to carry out this last irksome
duty. The splash of mud on his patent-leather boots
enhanced their brilliancy. He brought in with him
the warm scent of wine and cigars.
They lurched stifly, with agony to their feet — all
but one. And he did not move. He sat with his
back to the wooden wall, his arms clasped about his
knees, his face a white wet mask in the light. A
queer little smile twitched at the comers of his tight
The under-officer stumbled over the straw towards
"Get up! What's the matter with you? Are you
drunk or mad or what ?"
"I've had enough. That's why I'm not getting up.
I've been driven like a beast. In the name of my suf-
fering ccHmrades over the whole world — ^I protest."
The voice was high-pitched and quavering. It was
terror-wracked. Yet he sat there. The under-officer
made a movement of sheer helplessness. He was
more than half afraid of that set, wild-staring figure.
Only madness could explain it. And he had met mad-
ness before — rafter the manoeuvres.
The lieutenant motioned him imperiously aside. He
was young and the cruel march and deep drinking had
inflamed his temper. He was going to make an ex-
ample — prove to himself perhaps that he could uphold
his authority like a veteran.
"Get up!" he said quietly and dangerously, "Get
The Mannheimer glanced across at the pale line
of tense, watching faces. He sought out Helmut,
the same smile of childish triumph about his mouth.
TOWARDS MORNING 167
He did not move. "Get upl Do you hear? For
the last time **
The lieutenant kicked the crouching figure with
his delicately-shod foot.
Then — grotesquely, like a jack-in-the-box, released
by its spring — the Mannheimer bounded up. His arms
whirled. His flat open hand struck full across the
It was as though a hidden mine had been exploded
under their feet. In the falling dust and debris they
heard the shrill rasp of steel — a, light flashed up. But
before it fell, Helmut had lurched between. He flung
himself upon the frantic soldier, bearing him down,
pinning him to the groimd. In a strange, convulsive
embrace they held each other.
When at last they were dragged apart the lieuten-
ant's sword had slipped back into its sheath.
It was quite still now. They dared not look at one
another. Something had been shattered — something
that had seemed fundamental and inevitable. For the
moment, authority, rank and caste were wiped out.
They were like men struggling out of the ruins of a
fallen house, asking themselves : "What has happened !
Who are we? What remains?*'
There was disaster in the dark, evil-smelling atmos-
phere. Only the Mannheimer seemed unconscious of
it. He looked about him vaguely, seeing no one, until
his eyes met Helmut's and then his brows twitched
with a kind of pathetic puzzlement.
The lieutenant's hand lay clenched white on the
hilt of the sword he had drawn too late. He was a
mere boy now — a boy who had played clumsily with
a machine that had no mercy on clumsiness. He knew
• — and the men whom he commanded and the under-
i68 TOWARDS MORNING
ofBcer who stood baffled and horror-stricken beside
him knew — ^that there could be no mercy.
The red stain was . spreading over the bloodless
cheek. Twice he tried to speak. His lips quivered
with the effort. They could almost hear the sob in
And at last it was the under-officer who blustered
out an order.
Two soldiers from the patrol closed in smartly on
cither side of their prisoner.
The door slammed to and they were again in dark-
ness. They crouched down in the wet straw, listen-
The interminable waltz music from across the way
flowed over the dull receding footsteps.
The next day they were marched back.
It seemed that the light in him had gone out finally.
He had become a mere physical organism that moved
at a word and stopped at a word — ^that hungered sav-
agely for food and rest and for vague, unnamable
things. The desire of them writhed like newly hatched
serpents at the bottom of his darkness.
He stood at the gates of the barracks and stared
brutishly in front of him, brooding over nothing. He
still suffered — suffered even acutely as a paral)rtic
suffers in the first hours of atrophy, but he did not
know that he was suffering. His mind registered no
emotion. He could not have taken a decision — could
not have moved suddenly to save himself. Yet when
a grey-coated figure turned in at the Kaseme Gates
he stiffened sharply and the middle finger of each hand
found the outer seam of his trousers in a lightning
Lieutenant Miiller glanced at him and stopped.
"Why, you're the fellow Fve been thinking about.
We want extra help at the LiebestnoM to-night You
— ^you seemed to me the sort of fellow who knows how
things are done. Do you think you could lend a hand
'Jofwohl, Herr Leutnant."
^Good. Report yourself to the mess sergeant. TeH
him I sent you."
I70 TOWARDS MORNING
^'Jawohl, Herr Leutnant."
The other did not pass on. He stood there with a
set, earnest expression on his pleasant face. It was
almost as though he were trying to overcome a cer-
"Look here," he jerked out suddenly. ''You don't
belong in this galere. I can see that You're edu-
cated—different. Why aren't you an Einjahrige?"
"I failed — three times, Herr Leutnant."
"Ah, yes — yes." He dug his hands deep into the
pockets of his great-coat, shivering a little. "Pretty
rough for you, eh ?"
Helmut did not answer quickly. He shrank from
the question as from a surgeon's knife. He was
afraid — resentful. Why was this man — this c^cer
trying to make him feel and remember — when he had
almost forgotten ? He stared stolidly.
'Jawohl, Herr Leutnant."
^Ach — um Gotteswillen, answer like a human-be-
ing for once. It's my duty to know something about
you. I asked you a question, Felde."
Helmut set his teeth sullenly. This stranger could
probe and dig as much as he liked. He should not
get through. He should not hurt. If there was a
living nerve left he should not find it.
"I don't know what the Herr Leutnant means."
Then his interrogator looked at him — so straightly,
with so much goodness that he faltered. "It was
bad at first, Herr Leutnant— one gets accus-
"Hardened, you mean. And that's bad. These
other fellows — ^they're living above their own level,
some of them. They'll come out all the better for it.
But you'll be roughened — ^as the best must be. It
TOWARDS MORNING 171
won't do. Remember — ^you've got to go back to your
He had found the nerve — at one sure glance. And
it was alive. It hurt incredibly. It was like coming
back out of a narcotic to the bitter knowledge of pain
and disfigurement. And yet under those loyal, friend-
ly eyes, Helmut came back gladly. There was some-
thing sweet — almost voluptuous in this surrender to
the other's will.
"I haven't an)rthing to go back to, Herr Lcutnant."
"They don't know what to do with me. They're
"You must make them proud. And, anyhow there's
yourself. If yourself isn't ashamed " He broke
off. Perhaps he remembered who he was — what his
brother-officers would say if they heard. Perhaps just
for that moment he too was afraid. And for just so
long they stood there, staring at each other, a pace's
distance between them, two boys, almost of an age,
oddly alike with their fair round faces, divided by a
gulf which by the law of caste they must not cross.
The lieutenant lifted his head sharply. "Next year
you can be my orderly, if you choose," he said. "Then
I could make things easier fior you. I could lend you
books — and things — help you. You'd be in my quar-
ters. Only " A youthful sternness hardened his
glance. "Only it's for you to choose. You'll have
to show that you want it. You know what I mean.
If you let yourself go now, in a year's time you'll be
finished. You've got to keep your soul alive. It will
be hard going. You'll have to hold out alone."
Outwardly they were just officer and man. Helmut
had not moved. He stood rigidly at attention. But
172 TOWARDS MORNING
all the thwarted affection, all the passicmate idealism
and hero-worship of youth was in his throat as he
"Herr Leutnant — ^I'd do anything — put up with
anything — I'd be glad — if only there was something
to work for— I'd *'
He could have fallen on his knees and kissed the
other's hand. He would have died for him. Per-
haps the little lieutenant knew for he turned away,
"Until next year, then, Felde !"
'TJntil next year, Herr Leutnant!"
"And to-night you serve in the mess?"
"Ztt Befehl, Herr Leutnant!"
A faint, rather bitter smile twitched at the comers
of the officer's mouth. He nodded and passed on
quickly. But Helmut stood and watched him until
the slight, grey figure had faded like a wraith into
The dinner was over. The mess orderlies moved
about briskly, clearing the long table, carrying liqueurs
and coffee. Chairs were pushed back. The harsh
ceremoniousness of the earlier hours was relaxed.
Men lounged comfortably in their places. A fra-
grant amethyst veil of smoke rose up like incense
through which a portrait of Bismarck looked down
"No^it's a pity our good comrades from Karlstadt
cannot take a beating," Major von Schonau remarked.
"All this fuss about detail strikes me as unsportsman-
like. Because some fellow drops down with heart-
TOWARDS MORNING 173
failure and another goes off his head doesn't alter the
fact that we beat them. If it had been a question of
manoeuvring for a position in war-time we should
"Undoubtedly." The Colonel at the head of the
table shrugged his broad shoulders. "But you know
what Majestat is — it's the all-round standard that
cotmts. Two links in our chain snapped and it will
go against us in Majestat's opinion. You will see
that I am right."
The conversation drifted down the table to the sub-
"Good Lord — ^all that swot for nothing."
"And to-morrow the old grind again:"
"Drilling blockheads that can't tell their right foot
from their left and don't know how to use a pocket-
There was a laugh.
"Rehearsing a play that never comes off !" the red-
faced Major muttered bitterly. "That's what soldier-
ing means these days."
Hauptmann von Theobald patted him on the shoul-
der with a slim, white hand.
"Just wait a little, my friend. It will come."
"You think so ? Ah, yes, for our sons' sons. Mean-
time we rot here in this God- forsaken hole — in a
ghastly monotony of routine that is idiotic unless it
leads to war — ^not even able to relax in it — with not
a soul to speak to but ourselves — ^not even able to live
with our families because no family could be brought
up in such a place — ^rotting in soul and mind — for
nothing. To no purpose. And when we've given our
best years — ^when we're too old, too petrified to be
anything else we get a blue envelope dropped on our
174 TOWARDS MORNING
breakfast table and we know that Majestat is grateful
for our services but has had enough of them."
A silence answered the bitter tirade. The younger
men half-smiled but there was an uneasy, irritable
look on the faces of their seniors. The one com-
moner among them leant forward eagerly.
"The truth is that soldiers unless they are fighting
are sort of organised lunatics," he said. "We spend
our days doing things that have no sense in them. If
we have a talent for anything intelligent or beautiful
we have to suppress it and suppress it in others. Von
Liebenau there has a voice that would have taken
him all over Europe and he has to crack it on parade.
Von Theobald is an artist, but if he dared to paint a
picture that was worth anything he would be sus-
pect as a soldier — and quite rightly because nobody
with an artist's mind could do futile, ugly things intel-
ligently. It is the same with everything. A soldier
is simply a negation."
They were silent a moment, turning to him with
an over-emphasised consideration.
"Except when he is fighting," von Steuban observed
with his Berlin drawl. "You made that reservation
yourself, mein Lieber. When he is fighting he is the
high-priest of his country. And we shall fight. This
is only the preparation."
"But when — whom in heaven's name?" Miiller ex-
"Soon — ^and perhaps everybody. You cannot go on
sharpening a sword forever. If you do the time comes
when it will snap in your hands. Our Government
knows that There are signs already that if we do
not fight soon it will be too late. At present we are
TOWARDS MORNING 175
firmly welded— of one mind — ^but to-morrow — who
"Why should we fight at all?"
There was again the silence — the invisible stiffen-
ing. Von Steuban laughed.
"Our friend is trying to tell us that we are anach-
ronisms as well as lunatics and negations/' he said.
He leant his elbow on the table, his long chin in his
hand. "He forgets that it is quite open to every man
who feels that he has wasted himself to take off the
King's coat to-morrow."
Miiller moved sharply in his place and the eyes of
the two men met and held. The red-faced Major
"Well, and who is our next whetstone to be.
France ? We should beat her, eh ?"
"A tottering Colossus."
"So much the better."
They considered the point gravely, dispassionately.
The Colonel broke the silence with his harsh, strong
"The English are great fighters," he said. "They
are brave. But they are stupid. No, that is inaccur-
ate. They like to seem stupid and they have pre-
tended so long and so well that the appearance is al-
most as good as a reality. To be efficient in England
is to be bad form — ^not quite the gentleman. It shows
too much eagerness — too much interest The Eng-
lish people like to bungle a thing two or three times
176 TOWARDS MORNING
just to show that they don't really care. Then they
put their back into it When they've won they say,
'You see — ^we can't help winning when we try.' Of
course, it's expensive, but then that just emphasises
the inexhaustibility of their wealth."
"If they blunder against us ^" von Schonau put
The Colonel smiled.
''Exactly. Then that will be rather different That
will be very expensive indeed. Very painful even."
"Nevertheless, they are to be taken seriously. They
"And we are in deadly earnest One cannot be
both. To be a sportsman one must be sufficiently
detached to see the other side of the argmnent. In
war one must be passionate. War is not a game."
"They are tough," von Schonau persisted.
"So are we. They don't think so. They think they
are the only people who can be defeated without being
broken. They are mistaken. So much the worse for
It will be a bitter struggle."
'Undoubtedly. For them it is life or death — for
us it is a question of now or later."
The Major lifted his liqueur glass.
"Well, may it be soon — ^before they push me on to
the scrap heap!" he said twinkling good-hiunouredly.
"Like poor Leiprandt," von Theobald remarked.
"He sent in his papers last night — he cried like a
"He was only a child," Miiller said quietly. He
still leant forward a little, his hands clasped as though
he were fighting for self possession. His eyes spar-
kled and there was a feverish colour in his cheeks.
TOWARDS MORNING 177
Across the table von Steuban watched him, smiling
faintly and steadily so that his lean face was like a
"He did the only possible thing," he said.
"Why ?" MuUer flashed out. "What was his crime ?
A delirious soldier struck him? Was that his fault?
Why should his whole career be blasted *'
"The Herr Kamerad is very full of whys to-night/*
von Steuban interrupted amusedly. "One might al-
most imagine oneself in the Reichstag listening to a
Socialist interpolation. True, the blow was not Leip-
randt's fault — ^though a more experienced officer might
have prevented it. But the blow having been dealt he
had only one course open to him — ^he had to punish
instantly — effectively. He should have run the fellow
"A madman? Damnable!"
"Ah, you think so? Yet the King's regulations are
explicit on that point — ^Leiprandt failed to protect his
uniform and his honour."
"An honour that is so easily insulted is no honour
A ripple of movement passed down the length of
the table. An undercurrent, invisible on the flat sur-
face of their boredom and discontent, had none the
less been carrying them forward to the edge of a
cataract. Sub-consciously at least, they had felt this
moment coming. They stiffened to meet it, turning
their imperturbable faces to the two men who waited
on each other's move in unmasked antagonism. And
in their attitude there was something prepared, ex-
pectant, almost eager.
"One would think our friend had been studying
178 TOWARDS MORNING
Bebel/' von Steuban murmured. ''If one could think
such a thing of a Prussian officer."
"Meine Herren — meine Herren r
But for once the harsh voice carried no authority.
Lieutenant Mtiller had not moved. He ^x)ke quietly
— ^very distinctly.
"I did not surrender my intelligence or my con-
science when I put on the King's coat," he said. "I
say it would have been damnable to have killed a sick,
exasperated man. A law which insists on such an
act is a bad law." Perhaps he knew then — suddenly —
that they were prepared. He looked about him, meet-
ing their expressionless, unflinching stare with a flash
of understanding. "Ah!" he said under his breath.
And now von Steuban moved. He had been hover-
ing — ^waiting. He dropped like a hawk.
"Then in your opinion, Herr Kamerad, the life
of a swine of a Socialist is worth more than the
honour of your regiment?"
"I respect life more than a fetich."
"Ah, our uniform is a fetich ? Is the Herr Kamerad
sure that the fetich fits him?"
Their voices were hushed and yet in the tense still-
ness they sounded over-loud — ^brutal. Von Steuban
waited. The young man opposite him had turned
white to the lips but he had not flinched. So they
remained facing each other for an intermmable min-
' You meant that, Herr von Steuban ?"
1 have said nothing that I regret."
"Von Theobald, will you act for me?"
The good-looking captain assented courteously.
"But with pleasure."
Miiller rose. He stood for a moment in his place^
TOWARDS MORNING 179
very straight and slender in the close-fitting uniform.
His face was faintly flushed again, but pinched and
"With your permission, Herr Oberst."
He bowed and they bowed back to him, gravely,
ceremoniously. Helmut held the door open and he
passed out, leaving behind him an unbroken silence.
An orderly caught Helmut up as he went down the
servants' steps of the Casino.
"The Herr Leutnant Miiller says you're to drive
out with me in the Krumper-Wagen," he panted, "to-
morrow morning at daybreak — seven o'clock."
Helmut nodded dully.
"You can come round half an hour before and help
me harness up," the man added with a wink.
"Yes— yes— I'll come."
But he hardly knew that he had spoken. He was
listening to a voice that said over and over again :
"And we'll get our little Miiller out soon — freeze
him out— or kick him out — somehow — you'U see I"
And so, when the first grey light broke over the dis-
tant hills, the ramshackle old Krumper-Wagen with its
occupants rattled over the cobbles of the Kaseme Hof
and two tired sentries presented arms. A few min-
utes more and the little town was rubbing its sleepy
eyes behind them and they were out in the open coim-
i8o TOWARDS MORNING
It had been raining in the night but now the grey
mantle of clouds was wearing thin. In the air there
was a keen sweetness — a breath of spring blew over
the furrowed fields.
Helmut sat on the box beside the orderly. The
carriage was open and in his mind's eye he saw the
lieutenant, wrapped in his long military cloak with
his two companions facing him. He could hear their
voices — calm and untroubled — the casual everyday
comments — ^as though nothing had happened — as
though nothing ever could happen.
The Zigeuner-Wald lay ^bout a mile outside the
town. Helmut knew it well. A clearing had been
cut through its heart and twice a week they were
marched out there for musketry practice. Although
it was quite small and insignificant, to Helmut it had
always seemed the most beautiful wood in the world.
When he had first seen it it had been a green pool in
the hot ugly plain and be had run into it like a thirsty
desert-wanderer, drinking its shadow gratefully.
Then the autumn had come and burnished it to a
bronze shield. He remembered the pungent flavour of
decay — ^the mellow tang in the mists that had hung
over the golden floor. And now in the last days of
winter only the fir-trees remained clothed in their old
dress. They stood out sombrely — sl little plebeian —
amidst the austere loveliness of barren branches.
Another carriage had arrived before them and a
group of men waited at the foot of a great beech
tree. They stopped talking as the newcomers alighted
and two of them detached themselves from the rest
and came forward, saluting.
Leutnant Miiller's companions advanced to meet
them and they stood together in calm consultation.
TOWARDS MORNING i8i
Presently both parties returned to their places. The
lieutenant slipped off his cloak and tossed it into the
carriage. He wore a grey Letewka and the short,
close-fitting jacket made him look even younger.
He nodded to the soldier on the box.
Tou won't forget, Johann?"
'Ach, nein, nein, Herr Leutnant — ^but God for-
He smiled at both of them. His blue eyes lin-
gered rather sadly on Helmut and for a moment
he seemed about to speak but he said nothing and
turned and joined his companions.
It was very still. Yet when one listened every
now and then a sound fluttered up — ^the soft jingle of
harness, the thud of an impatient hoof, the cracking
of a twig under some mysterious tread. The mois-
ture from the overhanging branches dripped with a
silver-toned splash on to the dead leaves. A pale
rain-washed sunlight shone behind the grey fretwork.
It painted the stark stems of the trees with luminous
colour. One saw for the first time that the sap was
There was life in the stillness — ^the first stirrings of
The orderly moaned to himself.
^'Oh, Gott, oh, Gott — if it is only not my young
gentleman — so'ne brave junge Herr " The thick
tears rolled down his cheeks and he rubbed them away
shame-facedly with his rough red hand. "He is so
good to me. And look here — ^he gave me a letter —
before we set out — to me — as though I had been a
friend. He might have given it to a brother-officer,
but no^'Johann/ he said, 'Johsinn, you'll post this if
i82 TOWARDS MORNING
it's necessary. It's to my mother/ Look, here it is.
I carry it in my tunic."
Helmut glanced at the inscription. "To the Frau
Doktor Miiller." He thought — "If we had lived in
the same town my mother might have known her.
They might have talked together about their sons and
of the plans they were making for them."
He began to imagine what she was like. Grey-
haired and little, grown hard, perhaps, with life, like
his mother. Or happy and pretty. Yes, surely the
mother of the lieutenant would be happy and pretty —
and proud too that her son should be an officer in the
45th amongst such fine people. She was asleep now,
dreaming no evil, not knowing what the fine people
were doing to her son.
The orderly gripped his arm so that his fingers
met through the flesh. An instinct must have warned
him for a full minute passed before the thud fell.
They sat rigid, staring blindly. And now there was
no other sound in the whole world. A second thud
came — ^after an eternity of time, and it was quite dif-
ferent. It was deliberate — ominous. It echoed inter-
''Oh, Gott, oh, Gott, my young gentleman — my poor
Suddenly Helmut noticed a tiny sparkle of green
amidst the dead leaves. In a few weeks the children
would come here and gather Maiglockchen. He re-
membered how he and his mother and father, and
Heini and Schnautzchen had gone out to gather Maig-
lockchen and how his father had explained things to
"You see, the sap is like our blood."
Two officers strolled out from among the trees, they
TOWARDS MORNING 183
were still talking calmly. One of them motioned to
Helmut and his companion and they jumped down
and began to close the carriage.
Helmut knew then.
But he had known from the beginning.
And presently two more officers followed and they
carried the lieutenant between them. Behind at a dis-
creet distance walked von Steuban with his friends
and the regimental doctor. They too, were talking.
It was as though they had come back from a day's
Helmut saw the lieutenant before they laid him back
amongst the cushions. He was pale but very un-
troubled. There was a little round hole in the middle
of his forehead.
His comrades stood together for a moment.
"He fired high— deUberately."
"That was his affair."
"I shall report myself at once at headquarters,"
von Steuban said.
Von Theobald bowed.
"You will permit me to accompany you. As Herr
Leutnant Muller's second, I should like to assure the
court that the proceedings were perfectly in order."
"In every respect."
They saluted each other in mutual congratulation.
And so they drove the lieutenant home. The Krum-
per-Wagen bumped and rattled over the cobbles. It
was a disgraceful old bone-shaker and they drove with
painful caution as though in its dark recess some one
And Johann cried. The tears splashed on to his
tunic and made big stains on the blue cloth.
184 TOWARDS MORNING
But Helmut did not cry.
His eyes were empty — stupid-looking.
There were five of them, with the red-faced sol-
dier in charge, and they had reached a squalid, tight-
lipped house on the outskirts of the town when Hel-
mut overtook them. He had been running. His eyes
were red-rimmed and blood-shot, and his breath came
in hard jerks. It was as though he had been trying to
escape from some one.
"Wait ! Wait !" he shouted at them.
They stopped, considering him with dislike and dis-
"Well, what do you want anyhow ?"
"I — I saw you going along — I wanted — I thought —
p'r'aps you'd let me come with you — I'd like to come."
"Oh, yes, and spy things out and sneak on us."
"No— of course not — I wouldn't — I swear it."
'You were too damn superior to come before."
1 know — I was a silly fool — I didn't r^lise — ^the
fact is — it's — it's so lonely — I can't stand being alone
any more — I can't — I can't,"
His voice was high and strained. It made them
"Well, we don't want any gentleman spoil-sports
and pie- faces."
He came close to them. He winked. There was
something horrible and pitiful about it — like a child
copjring an obscene gesture that it does not under-
"I'm not a gentleman— or a pie-face. I'll prove
it I'll show you. Only I'm not going to be alone
TOWARDS MORNING 185
any more — ^won't. Only let me come too. Look here
— Fve got some money — I'll stand treat — anything
you like — ^the whole lot of you."
They grinned back at him, their spite against him
gratified, not disarmed. They were equals now —
more than equals — for he was cringing to them.
"Well, you've changed your tune and no mis-
"Yes — I know — I've told you — I'm sorry."
The door of the secretive-looking house had opened
like a mouth and an evil breath struck into the clean
air, carrying with it a hoarse murmur of voices — ^a
woman's high, hysterical giggle — the scraping of a
"Want to be one of us — eh?"
"Ye&— that's it — not alone."
The red-faced soldier slapped him on the shoulder
"Well — come on then — show what you can do, com-
They pushed into the dirty passage arm in arm
and the rest followed, laughing and nudging one
Herr Walther von Stolzing stood on the flower-
strewn hillock and sang.
Sweeter and richer, quickening in the exultancy of
love and youth the pure tenor poured out into the
entranced stillness. Hans Sachs with happy Evechen
on his arm and all the sturdy mastersingers of Nurem-
berg listened from their raised pavilion. And
mediaeval Germany, gay and multi-coloured as a rain-
bow stood about them, a-dream, their banners furled
in the quiet air, the deep under-current of the violins
seeming to sing their hearts' accompaniment — ^hushed
as yet, but rising like a tide.
Away in the distance the red towers of Nurem-
berg looked down upon the meadow scene — charm-
ingly sinister — an ogre castle in a fairy-tale.
'' Huldreichster Tag
Dem ich aus Dichters Trautn erwachi."
Faces shone palely, phosphorescently through the
twilight — row upon row, tier upon tier, up into the
deep night of the galleries where their white glow
faded and went out into blank shadow. There were
masks, blurred, one like another — ^terrible in their
i88 TOWARDS MORNING
A young soldier sat in the far comer of the second
gallery. He held his face between his rough red
hands and drew his breath deeply like a released pris-
oner drinking in the first sun-warmed air of free-
*'Durch Sanges Sieg gewonnen
Pamass und Parodies/'
'And now the tide had risen to their lips. Dream-
ingly, unconscious of itself the great chorus swept into
the open, hushing its own strength, following the
singer from afar to the last height. A wind arose
and the banners fluttered out. It was as though sud-
denly all the joy and youth and springtime of the
world were in their song.
The young soldier hid his face in his arms.
When he looked up again the crowd had fallen
silent. A new voice sang to them — a new, more won-
derful song. It was Hans Sachs. He stood alone on
the top step of the pavilion — ^massive, rough-hewn as
a rock — towering above them all. The glitter and
gleam of colour faded before his grey simplicity. The
victorious Stolzing was like a pretty gilded puppet
''Habt achtl Uns drohen uble Streichr
The baritone was a man's voice calling through the
song of children. Its mellowness was velvet over steel.
And in the music, love and springtime gave place to
something valorous and sober and splendid — b, proud
warning — a call to high endeavour. The lyric sweet-
ness of the Preislied came again but now it was
rh3rthmed to the strong disciplined swing of a march-
TOWARDS MORNING 189
" — und walschen Dunst mit wdlschen Tand
Sie pHansen uns in's deutsche Land.
Was deutsch und dcht wiisst keiner mehr
Lebts nicht in deutscher Meister Ehrt
As though he could bear no more the young soldier
stood up— and strangely, terribly the man beside him
stood up with him — ^and then the whole theatre.
In ateolute silence they stood there to the end, their
white faces gleaming through the dusk.
When the curtain fell upon the last joyous, exultant
scene, there was still no sound. No hand beat ap-
plause. Men turned away from one another, groping
Helmut lingered on the steps of the vestibule. The
spell of silence had broken. The crowds pouring
out from the Parterre-Logen eddied uncertainly, break-
ing into disjointed speech. But the deeper spell re-
mained. They were like people moving in a dream.
An infantry lieutenant, slender and tall in his dark
blue coat, stopped for a minute under the light He
laughed, playing the indifferent, but his eyes shone
and the hand resting on the sword-hilt was strained
bloodless. And in a flash of memory Helmut saw
him toss up the yellow cap of the Quinta and heard
him send his boyish shout to the heavens.
"Long life to our dear Lord God — ^long life to
But Leutnant von Prutwitz did not look at the
infantry soldier who stood stiff and expressionless as
he passed. He caught his companion by the arm in
an irrepressible burst of feeling.
I90 TOWARDS MORNING
"The luck of it ! Think of it really coming in our
Old Doctor Roth hoU)Ied out on his wife's arm.
Rheumati^n plagued him but he gesticulated with a
youthful fire. He glared at Helmut unseeingly, his
eyes two points of white-hot passion.
"Yes — ^I am a doctor — ^a man of healing — but if
ever one of these treacherous English fall into my
hands — ^well, God help me to remember my duty —
for I shall be sorely tempted."
"It doesn't matter what one does to the English,"
his wife said, heavily excited. "They are devils."
"They and their precious treaties! Much they care
for treaties when it suits them."
It seemed to Helmut that all his boyhood passed
him by — changed, deeply, painfully familiar. There
was the Geheimrat grown stouter, carrying the mas-
sive shoulders more processionally than ever, the big
black moustache turned grey. He forced his passage
through the crowd, like a big liner through a shoal of
fishing-boats, the lean Geheimratin struggling in the
back-wash. His voice boomed over the confusion.
"Kurt had his marching orders a week ago."
He jostled Helmut indifferently. Even if he had
recognised the figure in the clumsy infantry uniform
he would not have spoken. He had Spartan notions
of honour. There could be no common soldiers in his
A tidy little man with spectacles seemed to spring
up under the Geheimrat's shadow. Helmut remem-
bered him quite well. He had a big Delicatessen shop
at the comer of the Karlstrasse and Helmut and his
mother had gone there every Thursday evening to
buy their weekly supply of sausage. It was his son
TOWARDS MORNING 191
— ^the first tenor at the Miinchener Hoftheatre — who
had sung Walther von Stolzing.
"They are going to exempt him," he stammered
in breathless excitement. "He wanted to volunteer
but they wouldn't let him. 'A great artist' — ^they said
— 'we must keep our great artists — a voice like
Some one interrupted passionately.
"The French have dropped bombs on Nurem-
"Ah, if they do things like that — ^then we must all
go— to the last man."
"The Grand Duke is going to speak to the people
from the balcony."
"They don't know what they have conjured up —
the treacherous devils — 2l whole people in arms —
united from prince to peasant."
"Germany — Germany."
The man's voice broke on a sob.
But now a fresh torrent of men and women poured
down from the upper galleries and swept the eddy-
ing circles before it The moment of doubt, of
h^f-waking had passed. The dream had become a
And Helmut left his place on the steps and went
with them, for a sudden terror possessed him lest
they should go on and leave him*
And he dared not be alone.
The flood carried him swiftly and surely and he
forgot that he*had been afraid. Men pressed against
192 TOWARDS MORNING
him on every side, shoulder to shoulder, breast to
breast. He felt their hot breath on his neck and
cheek, their straining muscles, the heave of their pant-
ing flanks. Their touch thrilled him. The very odour
of their bodies intoxicated him. Suddenly he was not
Helmut Felde any more but a monstrous Invincible.
Against the sapphire of the feverish siunmer-night
the round full-blown lime trees in the Schlossplatz
painted a violet shadow. Between their branches the
stars flickered like candles in the wind, coming and
going as a faint breeze from the forest stirred the
dust-laden, shrivelling leaves to an uneasy rustle. A
fugitive scent of flowers hung above the stench and
heat and tumult.
Long ago when he had been a school-boy, Helmut
had come out here from the theatre with music echo-
ing in his heart and had wandered through this same
perfumed dusk, almost happy, building up his broken
dreams with youth's unconquerable hope, swearing big
oaths to the same stars, feeling the foolish, exquisite
tears rise as he stood beside the sleeping flowers.
He had forgotten. All that was gone. He was
not the same. He was a drop in a vast ocean — a
particle of an immensity. He pressed forward, yield-
ing to its pressure, gasping, sweating, his military
cap at the back of his head, his mouth open, mum-
bling broken, incoherent sentences. He did not know
where he was trying to go. But there was no need for
him to know. It knew. It would carry him whither
it would — to his appointed place. He had no meaning
if he were not of it — ^if he were to be at all he must go
with it — if need be go down with it
It swept the half -circle of the Schlossplatz to the
central avenue. There with the muffled boom of an
TOWARDS MORNING 193
Atlantic wave thundering into some cavern it broke
against a second phalanx coming from the town, and
recoiled, baffled, tossing hither and thither in frantic
vacillation. It had for that moment a terror of itself.
It cotdd have danced a saturnalia of sheer panic But
as it wavered a drum beat flashed over its black un-
rest, the distant pipes wailed like the first breath of a
coming storm and instantly the herd fell silent — ^as
though its collective soul had heard the secret rallying
cry for which it waited.
Helmut lifted himself on the shoulders of the man
in front of him. He saw the darkness fissured by two
parallel lines of fire which came on steadily, relent-
lessly. The flames of the torches streamed back like
banners. Their scarlet glare danced wickedly on the
set, blank faces of the men— on the fixed bayonets
that flowed past in a glittering stream. The crowd
gave way before them. It was orderly now — dis-
ciplined, horribly controlled. Though it spread from
wall to wall of the huge square it did not touch the
flowers that slept in their dark beds. Though there
were thieves and criminals in its midst it committed
no excess. The will that governed it had no use for
tumult — ^not yet for destruction.
A man had come out on to the Palace balcony. He
was a mere dot against the light and his voice was an
empty sound to Helmut and those around him. Yet
they stood motionless and hushed like men on the
threshold of a cathedral. The High Priest who of-
ficiated at the Altar was nothing. They did not
need to hear his words. They knew that that which
he held up for them to wor^ip was a Holy and a
The voice faded. They answered it — ^three times
194 TOWARDS MORNING
with the thunder shocks of a mighty hammer. Then
they swung round. Like a regiment on Parade they
formed into columns fifty deep and stormed past un-
der the midget figure — singing. Their faces, lifted
to the light, were fixed in a strange smile — ^in the
exalted stare of pilgrims who have come at last to
the heights of Pisgah — of disciples to whom their
god has at last revealed himself. They were not
drunken. They were terribly sober. They were not
ruthless, not cruel, not pitiful. They were a volcanic
force set free, a sea that has burst its dam, a thou-
sand lava streams pouring into one channel — ^towards
one end — 2, force horrific, unmoral, unaccountable.
And that which stood against them must be destroyed.
That was a natural law.
Yet once at the far comer of the square the crowd
slackened its headlong course. It seemed for a last
time to be struggling convulsively, like a thing in
agony, to resume its component parts, to break away
from its own solidity. But it was too late. The
fusion had been complete. For a moment longer the
welded mass writhed — ^then rushed on again, going it
knew not where, frenziedly resigned, singing from
dry, red-hot throats its high-song of praise and sac-
But in that brief welter and confusion, Helmut had
been driven under a street-lamp and had seen the face
of the man beside him. They had stared at each other,
half-recognising, half-puzzled. Then Helmut had re-
membered. The tawny beard had become streaked
with grey; the clothes were more than ever fantastic
and disorderly, the eyes pouched and red-rimmed as
though with much suffering. But their sudden laugh-
ter was like a light shining out in the midst of ruin and
TOWARDS MORNING 195
darkness. The old unquenchable humour was there,
the whmisical pity — the wise kindliness.
"Why— Helmut— little Helmut " He made a
gallant effort to hold his ground, clinging to the lamp-
post. But the tide caught him and tore him from his
moorings. He turned, trjring to wave a greeting —
a warning — Helmut could not tell. But he thought
suddenly of a drowning man who flings up his hand
for the last time out of a whirlpool.
"Juggernaut — Helmutchen — ^Juggernaut."
He must have shouted. It sounded like a whis-
Then the tide swept them apart and in a moment
Helmut had forgotten him.
He pushed on, singing interminably.
They were all there — ^all except the Geheimrat and
his wife. They had written to say that Kurt was
home for the night on farewell leave and that much
as he would have liked to have seen them he felt
that, in the circumstances, it would be kinder and
wiser to stay away.
Kurt was lieutenant in the Yellow Dragoons.
Every one knew that Gefrdte Helmut Felde was
But the others were there — ^all the poor relations —
Tante Louise, the post-office official's widow, the
cousins and their husbands and their children — ^two
Backfische in the uniform of the St. Catherine's
School who bobbed with military precision to their
elders and overate themselves with stolid dignity.
Frau Felde wore her new Tartan silk blouse and
the Herr Amtschreiber, his frock-coat with the ribbon
of the Order of the Red Eagle, fourth class, in the
Never before had the little dining-room seen such
a feast. The white tablecloth was strewn with flow-
ers — not recklessly, for every blossom had its proper
space allotted to it and there was much eking out with
green stuff, and in the midst were big plate-loads of
Eier-Brotchen and even Kaviar-Brdtchen, and dishes
of potato salad and a Gemischte Platter of gorgeous
TOWARDS MORNING 197
creamy cakes. On the side-table stood a glass bowl
full of fresh peaches, neatly sliced, into which the
Herr Amtschreiber with all the solemnity of an of-
ficiating High Priest had poured a whole bottle of
Hochheimer and half a bottle of Sekt.
Old Anna had been engaged for the evening. They
called her old Anna because she seemed to have been
with them all their lives and because they could not
remember her as a girl. She had always had that
patient look of knowledge — ^she had never moved
quickly and lightly. Now much child-bearing and
much sorrow had left her slower and heavier than
ever. And even the pathos of her dark eyes had
She kept on running in and out of the kitchen where
her first bom and idiot son mumbled over his share
of the feast
And when they drank Helmut's health in their half-
glasses of Bowie, she cried. The tears rolled down
her sunken cheeks and she did not trouble to wipe
them away. It was as though they had come too
often in her life for her to notice them.
Helmut sat at the head of the table, opposite the
Venetian glass. Constantly he caught glimpses of
himself in its shining depths — eating, laughing, speak-
ing, and each time he had a sense of pause, of dis-
quiet, almost of anger. It was surely a stranger who
sat there mimicking him — ^that bland young man with
the sullen weather-tanned face and the raw red hands
sticking lumpishly out of the military cuffs.
He grew to hate the glass. It seemed to him that
he had always hated it — that far back in his child-
hood it had done something horrible to him — some-
thing that he had forgotten.
198 TOWARDS MORNING
Tante Louise nodded. She was always nodding —
mostly at the wrong moment. People who did not
know that she suffered from the palsy were often dis-
concerted by the nods and malicious winks that she
threw at them. Now her wizened, monkey-face was
twisted into a most humorous expression.
"Yes," she said, "God has made us his instru-
ment. We are the scourge with which He will chas-
tise these wicked nations. The English arrogance has
insulted Him long enough. And the French — ^well,
one has only to read a French novel to know what they
are — 2, decadent and frivolous people. It is a thou-
sand pities that we were merciful to them — fifty years
"Well, it won't happen again," Herr Breithaupt,
the bank cashier, declared jovially. "Hehnut will see
to that, eh ?"
They all looked at him. For the first time he
counted in their eyes. He represented the thing they
worshipped and trusted and he longed to say some-
thing that would please them — that would make them
believe in him still more. He laughed. The glass
of weak Bowie could not have intoxicated him and
yet he knew that he was drunk. His head whirled
and throbbed and his blood pounded through his veins.
He seemed to be growing bigger — ^to be cwelling up
with heat and a senseless anger.
'They won't get much quarter from meT he said.
"I shan't take any prisoners." He lunged with his
knife, giving it a professional twist. "I'll finish my
man every time — ^like that."
Tante Louise winked jovially at him.
"That's right. We mustn't have any pity on them
We mustn't have to punish them a third time."
TOWARDS MORNING 199
"And yet after all the French are not the worst/*
Herr Breithaupt remarked broad-mindedly. "They
are a silly light-headed people and the English are
using them as their catspaw. It is the English who
have done this."
"They have been plotting this for fifty years."
"Well, there's one thing — they have thrown down
the mask at last Every one will know what they are.
They will never be able to look honest men in the
"We got into this war with a clean conscience," the
Herr Amtschreiber said gently. "However terrible it
may be for us we shall be upheld by that knowl-
"Our good old German virtues won't fail us," the
Bank Cashier agreed. "Did you see the people on
the square last night ? Ah, that was something to re-
member. The English would have been drunk to a
man and the French would have been hysterical —
but our people — ^sober, resolute, God-fearing — ^who
will stand against them?"
"And after all war is a wonderful thing," his
brother-in-law, the notary, remarked thoughtfully.
"It purges. It reveals our virtues of courage and
endurance. Who knows if we too were not getting
luxurious? It may be that God has sent this war to
save us from the pitfalls into which other nations
They were silent, nodding grave acquiescence.
Frau Fdde looked up at Helmut. She had scarcely
spoken. Now a spot of colour burnt in either cheek.
"It gives people a chance," she said feverishly. "It
shews what they are really made of. My grand-
father served as volunteer in the ranks in 1870. He
200 TOWARDS MORNING
had never been a soldier because of his health. But
all his officers were killed — and he led a charge — and
they promoted him on the field" — she gave a nervous
laugh — ^*'of course, he wasn't really a common sol-
Of course not." The notary winked at HelmuL
Well, Napoleon said every soldier carried a field-
marshal's baton in his knapsack. Who knows what
you'll do, young man?"
Helmut had sat staring stupidly at his empty glass.
Now he looked up, considering them each in turn with
a sort of dazed truculency.
"I'll do something big," he shouted, "or I won't
They banged the table with fists.
"Bravo! Well spoken — like a true German!"
"I'll get my chance this time," he persisted.
The red, swollen-looking face in the glass scowled
at him. If only he could get away from it — smash
it. If only he could escape its tormenting unfamil-
His mother leant across to him. She laid her
hard, strong hand on his clenched one.
He had never heard her speak like that before —
with such tenderness — ^almost with reverence.
Herr Breithaupt gave the signal for departure.
"Well, we must be getting home. We've all got to
get up early to-morrow to give our hero a farewell
wave— come on, Mariechen."
They stood waiting one behind another to shake
hands with him. The little girls bobbed to him and
their round eyes were full of awe. He did not have
to shrink from them now. He could even treat them
TOWARDS MORNING 201
indifferently. He had become the elect — the Chosen
One among them.
The notary patted him on the back.
^^ 'Das Vaterland mag ruhig sein ^ " he quoted.
When they had all gone the Herr Amtschreiber
went back to his favourite place by the majolica stove.
He put his hands against it absently, though it had not
been lit for many months.
Yes, now one knows why one has lived," he said.
Sometimes when I liave been very tired I have asked
myself what it was all for — whether it mattered — ^I
had had so many hopes — ^and they'd all gone wrong.
It seemed not worth while to try so hard. But now
I see that it is because I — ^and all of us — ^have done
our little piece of work faithfully — ^that we are strong
enough to meet this onslaught. And you, too, Hel-
mut — your turn is coming now — it has been hard for
you, but you did your best; it hasn't been in vain,
Helmut did not answer. His mother had been
gathering the dirty plates together. Now she looked
up at him. There was a brooding smile in her pale
eyes — a subdued exultation.
"It is going to be a great and wonderful time," she
And suddenly he was sobered. He was afraid of
her. He saw that she and her Ibve for him were
He looked in as he passed the kitchen on the way
to his bed-room. He wanted Anna. He had never
once thought of her all the time he had been away,
but now a strange desire to be with her possessed
202 TOWARDS MORNING
him. It was a hunger — a pain like home-sickness.
He had forgotten all she had told him about the
fairies, but he did remember that she had understood
him and played his games. Perhaps she would un-
derstand now what the others could not understand —
what he hardly imderstood himself. Perhaps he
would be able to tell her.
There was nothing splendid or proud or heroic
about old Anna. She would not take his heroism for
granted. He wouldn't have to say big things to her
to impress her. Whatever he did would be right.
Even if he put his head down on her lap and cried
his heart out she would not be ashamed of him.
He wanted the reassurance of her praise — the over-
flowing measure of her admiration.
But on the threshold of the little kitchen he stopped
short. She knelt with her back towards him amidst
the debris of the feast, her arms encircling the frail,
hunched-up body of her son. She clung to him, si-
lently, desperately, and the boy's head hung over her
shotdder like the head of a broken flower. She did
not move. But Helmut could see the muscles of her
strong bare arms stand out in the frantic force of her
Then suddenly, like an animal surprised, she sprang
up facing him.
"I — I came to say good-bye," he stammered.
She seemed not to hear him. She tried to brush
the lank, disordered hair out of her face. All the
stoic patience was gone. There was something sav-
age, insurgent in her bearing.
"Herr Helmut — they won't — they can't take him —
TOWARDS MORNING 203
For a moment he did not understand. He had
been thinking of himself. Then he threw an impa-
tient glance at the poor imbecile face.
"No— of course they won't. He's too young. Be-
sides, he's not — ^he's not "
"Not like the others." She nodded. "I'm glad—
A dull anger stirred in his blood.
"You oughtn't to be. You ought to be ashamed.
You ought to want to give a son to the Fatherland."
"But I don't — I don't — we — we suffer too much."
She seemed to be struggling desperately to speak
clearly — to make him understand. "Yes — we suffer
too much, Herr Helmut All our fine young people —
they take them away from us — who have had to bear
so much for them. And we don't know why — we
don't know anything — and they shout a lot of big
words at us — and then it's all blood and killing and
maiming — all the fine young people killing each other
— for the sake of we don't know what. Ach, Hen-
Helmut, I saw just now — ^you stabbed with your knife
— and when you were a little boy you cried over the
dead flowers "
"Be quiet," he shouted at her. "War's different.
War's splendid. One's got to fight for one's coun-
She seemed to brush him on one side.
"But they won't take my poor boy. They won't
make him do cruel, horrible things. Because he's
weak and foolish he won't have to kill people — other
women's sons — and I'm glad — I'm glad God made
him as He did."
"You're a silly woman, Anna; you don't under-
204 TOWARDS MORNING
She smiled at him — a strange smile, full of dis-
traught wisdom. And all his love turned to hatred.
Without a word he left her, slamming the door
He lay in the narrow old bed against the wall — ^and
suddenly the thought came to him that he might never
sleep there again. Amidst the glamour and pride of
the last days the fact that in all probability he was
acclaiming his own death had not once touched his
consciousness. AH that had not seemed to matter.
His personality had been swamped. So long as It
persisted Helmut Felde's life or death had no sig-
Now lying there in the darkness and silence they
became everything. The revolt against annihilation
shook him like a storm. In measure as he seemed
to be growing smaller and weaker and lonelier his
passion for life grew. It became a frenzy — a megal-
omania which reduced the world and its claims on
him to shadows.
"I can't — ^I can't " he repeated under his breath
over and over again. "I can't "
He began to make wild plans — how he would run
away — escape to America — Switzerland. It was only
two hours to the frontier. Or pretend to go mad —
or injure himself so that they would have to give him
something safe out of the fighting. A ruthless logic
drove out his fanatic enthusiasm.
"After all, what does it matter what happens if Fm
killed? I shan't know — ^I shan't care."
He saw himself lying on the battlefield — alive,
TOWARDS MORNING 205
smashed out of recognition — like a dog that he had
seen run over by a motor. He saw himself just after
a high explosive had blown him into atoms. He felt
his brain burst up into flames — ^the gradual extinction
— the nothingness.
He had been shivering as if with cold. Now the
sweat broke out over his rigid body. And it was not
a dream — not a horrible freak of the imagination. It
was a reality that might seize him to-morrow — no, not
to-morrow. It was grotesque how the thought that
he would be safe to-morrow — ^that he still had his
breakfast and dinner to look forward to soothed him.
Already his claims on life were dwindling.
But at the back of his mind was the hope that
somehow he might escape.
A light shone under his door. He watched it —
fascinated. It did not pass on — nor yet did it hesi-
tate. It was the pause of some one quietly resolute.
Then the door opened.
She had taken off her blouse and skirt and the old
red-flannel dressing-gown enclosed her short stout
figure. But she was not ridiculous — ^not even com-
monplace. The candle-light encircled her face in soft
halo and behind the dull plainness of her features
there was a force and strength that checked his in-
voluntary exclamation. She came over to him.
"Not asleep, Helmut?"
They looked at each other steadily. For a moment
he had been on the verge of clinging to her, of chok-
ing his terror in her arms— of claiming he knew not
what strength and pity from her motherhood. The
impulse died under her eyes. They too suffered —
terribly — but it was not his suffering.
206 TOWARDS MORNING
"I have brought you something, Helmut/* She
took his hand in her hard, cold one. "It's my great-
grand-mother's iron wedding-ring — from the days
when our poor Fatherland bled imder the heel of the
tyrant They knew how to suffer — ^we've got to
learn from them."
Wear it, Helmut"
He was like a child. He was not even frightened
now. It was as though an inexorable destiny held
His mother slipped the iron ring onto his little
finger. He saw her mouth work in the effort to speak.
He knew that she was trying to say something —
something fundamental — from the very root of her
In a flash of inspiration he knew.
"Mother — if I don't do anything big — for the
Fatherland — ^you'd rather I didn't come back "
Suddenly her face was composed — ^at peace.
For a minute longer she looked at him. Then she
bent down and kissed him on the forehead.
"God bless you, Helmut."
She took up her candle and went out quietly as she
And in the first hours of the hot August morning
he marched out with his regiment And the crowd
TOWARDS MORNING 207
marched with them and the women strewed flowers
Their helmets were wreathed in flowers.
At the comer of the Karlstrasse, Helmut's people
waited. They waved to him. His mother's face was
almost beautiful. But he could not see old Amia
He heard it for the first time from the loft of a
frontier village inn. There were twenty of them
lying on the bare boards and to find room they had
to arrange themselves in an exact circle with their feet
towards the centre.
It was pitch dark save for the occasional splutter-
ing flare of a match or the steady glow of a pipe.
Then the veil thinned and a dim, spectral face peered
Veit Thomas did all the talking. When the others
interrupted he overbore them with his slow, heavy
"They've betrayed us," he said. "They had prom-
ised — then they let the French through. They sold
themselves. But they'll be sorry for it. Just wait.
We're a slow people. I know what I'll do when I get
"No quarter, eh?"
"Not for a single man."
"And the women ?"
A calm voice broke through the half -smothered
"We Germans don't make war on women."
Veit Thomas boomed angrily.
"No. But when they make war on us? And they
TOWARDS MORNING 209
do. Look here. A patrol of our men went ahead
to reconnoitre a village. And the women shot at
them from the windows — ^picked them off like game.
Then they came out and gouged out the eyes of the
"Who told you that?""
"The Feldwebel told me. It's official. They want
us to know so that we can look after ourselves.*'
A low growl, like that of a partially roused beast,
"We'll do that, all right. If they do things of that
sort we'll know how to manage."
Helmut had taken no part in the talk. He lay
with his head on his haversack, half dreaming, half
waking. His thoughts wandered off into dreams and
then suddenly his dreams would break off and tum-
ble him back into reality. He was bitterly weary.
Forty-eight hours in a cattle-truck and a slogging
ten hours' march had tried even his hardened young
muscles. But he was not unhappy. Every time the
cattle-truck had come to a station women had poured
onto the platform with flowers and good things to
eat. When they had marched through a village the
people had greeted them, with tears and smiles of
gratitude and pride. It had been music and glory
and triumph all the way.
When he closed his eyes he saw his mother's face.
Through the murmur of his companions' voices he
heard the perpetual singing:
^'Germany — Germany before all"
No, war wasn't evil — ^not even terrible. It was
210 TOWARDS MORNING
Abruptly he sat up. He did not quite know what
had startled him. It had been nodiing immediate,
but it had struck at the very vitals of his consdoas-
ness. It was not so much a sound as a vibratioi>
shaking the very foundations of his soul.
Even Veit Thomas was silent.
'Did you hear that?"
'Somebody must have fallen down upstairs."
^But there isn't an upstairs."
"Hark — ^there it is again."
'A long way off."
Bump— bump — ^bump— bump !
Somebody spoke in a queer, choking whisper.
Thereafter they sat silent, listening, staring into
They came nearer to it. And gradually its character
changed. It grew venomous — shrill. They began to
associate it with innocent white puffs of cloud — ^with
earth flung up as if by the spade of a giant — not yet
"They're not aiming at us," Veit Thomas would
So their first fear died down. Because their own
death was not immediate it ceased to be realisable.
They grew accustomed and indifferent. They made
jokes and gave the various forms of destruction nick-
names. That the next day might find them out did
not matter. To-day had passed them by.
A week after that first initiation they knew that
their time had come. No one had told them. They
TOWARDS MORNING 211
felt it in their nerves, they read it in the faces of
their officers. The very guns chanted it to them. At
each outbreak of their infernal dhorus the men stole
quick, uneasy glances skywards. Their jokes failed.
Only Veit Thomas shook his head obstinately.
"Well, they haven't got our range, anyhow," he
At nightfall they made way for other troops, halt-
ing along the side of a sunken road whilst company
after company of infantry with fixed bayonets poured
past them through the twilight. Except for the dust-
muffled thud of their feet, they made no sound. There
was no singing — ^no talking. The officers urged
them forward with gestures. They were shadows
hurrying into the unknown.
"They are going to the assault," Veit Thomas whis-
pered. "We're the reserve — the tenth wave. But it
isn't likely they'll want us. The Belgians run like
hares when they see our bayonets. Liittich falls to-
morrow — they say so."
'And the attack?" Helmut whispered back.
'Just before day-break."
So it had come at last.
The light faded. Calmly and beautifully the night
gathered over the earth. The men in the sunken road
huddled closer to one another. For the beauty and
quiet troubled them. They would have welcomed an
outbreak of a tempest. They suffered dumbly be*
cause they could not drag the firmament down into
their wretchedness. There had been at least splen-
dour in their daylight hell. Now the minute and dis-
tant stars had a majesty that made the bursting
shrapnel overhead no more than the destructiveness
of an angry child.
212 TOWARDS MORNING
At first they talked — spasmodically, in undertones
— ^but as the hours wore on their voices faltered and
died away. A man would begin a sentence and break
off, as a shell ripped the sky overhead, to listen. In
the end they only listened. It was as though by lis-
tening they could escape — ^as though, if for a moment
they relaxed their vigilance, the infernal thing would
fall upon them and destroy them. Only in a lull
their tense muscles relaxed and they stirred, mutter-
A hand laid itself on Helmut's arm.
We've made it all," a voice whispe/ed in his ear,
and it's got loose — and we can't control it any more
— and it'll destroy us — ^all of us."
Helmut nodded at the darkness. He did not know
the voice, but it was young and eager and he would
have been glad to answer. But he could not think.
His whole being seemed to be concentrated on a
stream of shells that went screeching past overhead
like a flight of evil birds. When they had gone he
drew his breath. He calculated it would be a minute
before others came — ^a minute precious as life, sweet
as relief from pain.
"It's queer, sitting here and waiting," the voice
went on — "just waiting to kill or be killed. I'm
glad our people don't know — aren't you? I've got a
sister — and she worries. If she saw me now "
"That one was nearer — one felt the earth shake,"
Helmut muttered between his teeth.
"To-morrow — at day-break " the voice whis-
pered. "Isn't that what they said?"
"Yes — ^unless they break through at the first as-
sault. And they're sure to — they can't fail." Hith-
erto he had been hardly conscious of his companion's
TOWARDS MORNING 213
personality. It had been like the voice of an inner
self. Now something touched him to self-forgetful-
"Are you frightened, too?** he asked.
"I — I don't know. Yes — I am — ^but I don't know
what of. It's not of dying. I keep on thinking — out
there somewhere there's some one whom I'm going
to kill — or who has got to kill me. And we've never
seen each other. We don't know — ^and all the time
we're getting nearer and nearer. And then suddenly
it will be done. We can't help it — and that's what
frightens me. We can't help it — ^we're driven." He
paused, and Helmut felt that the unknown face quiv-
ered. "I've never killed anything — not even a kitten.
I couldn't. My sister says that once I've killed some
one I shall never be the same again — that one can't
• do cruel things and go on minding. Do you think
that's so, comrade ?"
"One doesn't do cruel things," Helmut answered
impatiently. "One fights for one's home — one's coun-
try. That's duty. Killing some one in fair fight isn't
cruel — it's splendid — just as being killed oneself is the
most splendid thing of all. My mother was proud
when I went "
A sigh fluttered up through the darkness.
"Yes. My sister is good and beautiful. But she
is a strange girl. She has thoughts of her own. She
does not think like other people. They are angry
with her in our village because of the things she
"Some women are like that," Helmut muttered.
"They don't understand. They don't care about hon-
our and glory. They don't see how splendid it is to
be able to do fine, manly things — ^to be able to kill
214 TOWARDS MORNING
your enemy — I had an old nurse like that. She didn't
care a bit about our country. She only thought of
her idiot son " He broke off abruptly. "It's
getting light," he whispered. "Surely it can't be "
Dread overwhelmed him. Only a few minutes
ago they had had the whole night before them. Now
the night was gone. He tried not to believe it. But
where there had been formless darkness there were
now shapes — ^blurred — dimly moving. He could dis-
cern the outline of the figure huddled beside him.
"Comrade — ^my name is Hans — ^Hans Hildebrandt
— ^my sister lives up there in Embach — if anything
happened — if you write "
"Yes— yes "
"Thank you." He gave a little shaky laugh. "Per-
haps, after all — I shan't kill any one — I think if I
didn't she would be glad to know "
He stopped, with a painful catch of the breath.
For suddenly the bombardment had ceased. The si-
lence stunned them. It was ominous — more threat-
ening than all the tumult. Their hearts turned to
water. It was as though they had been cast headlong
into a frightful emptiness.
The hush lasted a full minute. Then came the
mean, malicious rat-a-tat-tat-tat of machine guns.
"Now," Veit Thomas whispered chokingly.
They waited — ^stiff, motionless, with wide-open,
sightless eyes. Hours seemed to pass in that waiting.
Then through the twilight men began to appear. They
came singly — in couples — ^anyhow. Four of them
carried something shapeless and inert between them.
The procession went on and on — ^silent, ghostly, end-
TOWARDS MORNING 215
And those crouching against the embankment
watched them with a dumb questioning.
"Where have you come from — ^what do you know
They received no answer. The blank-faced shad-
ows did not even look at them. They had a strange
air of aloofness and indifference, as though that which
they had seen separated them from the rest of man-
kind — ^as though nothing could ever really matter to
The boy at Helmut's side spoke to him, but now
he could not even listen. He tried vainly to steady
himself — even to pray — ^but the very words jumbled
themselves to grotesque meaninglessness. He tried to
think of his people — of Germany — of all the glory
which had seemed so much and which was now noth-
ing. His soul dwindled in him. He was nothing but
an animal— a body cowering in mortal terror.
Yet when a whistle sounded he got up. He did
the impossible — ^and strangely enough he knew that he
could not help doing it. He turned his face to the
Unknown as those others had done before him. He
drove his quivering, revolting body along the road
at the double. He sent it scrambling up the embank-
ment out into the open.
Von Steuban and an under officer ran at their
"Get on — get on with you 1"
It looked so innocent. The soft rose of sunrise hid
the scarred earth in a celestial radiance. The little
mounds scattered close together over the fields boded
no evil. They were quiet and peaceful as long-forgot-
ten graves. Not till Helmut had stumbled, cursing
frantically, over one of them did he understand.
2i6 TOWARDS MORNING
It was soft — ^boneless. It moved — it clung to him.
He kicked himself free — ^and it gasped and dropped
back inertly. He had then a lightning vision of that
first procession that had passed them in the dusk — of
those strong, straight young bodies— of those stem
faces turned toward their destiny — ^this.
But he fdt neither pity nor horror nor even fear.
Suddenly he had become excited, glorified. He was
happier than he had ever been. He had broken
through a fog into the full splendour of life. This
was the splendour of life — ^to meet death — ^to go out
and meet death willingly, of one's own choice — ^in the
prime of one's strength and manhood.
But underneath the exaltation something was stir-
ring — ^uncoiling itself — ^lifting a sinister listening head.
Men fell on either hand. They fell very quietly —
with an awful simplicity. No one heeded them. The
line closed up. Singing frenziedly, they staggered on
towards the wavering line of smoke fifty yards ahead.
The air whistled with death and it was like the music
of a tarantella.
Helmut began to run. He trod on those who had
gone before him. He was indifferent to them except
that they made him angry. A rage was mounting in
his blood — 2L wolfish hunger to come at last face to
face with this invisible enemy — ^to hold him and stab
him and crush him under foot.
They reached their first objective — ^an open trench
evacuated by the defenders in the first assault. The
ten waves had come thus far and here they had
broken. But they served faithfully— even now. Their
twisted, mangled bodies lay heaped one upon another
— ^they filled the trench almost to the brink.
The eleventh wave had cmly to run across.
TOWARDS MORNING 217
Helmut's boot crashed into an upturned, staring
"Germany — Germany — Germany — ^before all."
He did not know whether he screamed or whispered
it or whether it was only an echo in his own brain.
At least he heard nothing else. It filled his senses. It
was a sacred Mantra — hypnotic, numbing every pas-
sion but the one.
The last few yards passed in a whirl of darkness.
He stumbled over some wire entanglement and fell.
By the time he caught up with his companions the end
was almost in sight. Only here and there a machine-
gun sputtered up, like the last snarl of a mortally
wounded animal. From somewhere out of sight came
the click of steel — ^ stifled grunting and groaning.
A handful of unarmed men came towards Helmut.
They seemed to have sprung out of the bowels of the
earth. They came running and stumbling, their hands
above their heads, their grey faces full of a piteous
eagerness. But the red rage had mounted to Helmut's
"No prisoners ! No prisoners !"
And again he did not know — was it another's voice,
or his own or the thought in his brain?
It yras then the boy next him lurched, coughed, and
Helmut screamed. He jumped the fallen body and
ran straight for the man nearest him. He saw his
look of almost comic horror.
It was amazing how easy it was — ^how sweet — ^like
wine to a parched throat! The savage force of the
lunge drove right through so that for an instant the
man remained standing — ^gaping stupidly. Then he
went down, suddenly — dragging the rifle out of Hel-
2i8 TOWARDS MORNING
mut's hold. He lay there, spread-eagled, pinned to
the earth like some horribly tortured insect — wrig--
gling feebly. The eyes that met Helmut's were fixed
forever in a puzzled, angerless surprise.
Helmut saw that there were no prisoners.
Veit Thomas stumbled up to him.
"Well done, Felde; that was a fine stroke. Good
thing you didn't want your biayonet for another,
though. I've got my man, too— my first."
He mopped himself with a red hand, reeling and
swaggering like a dnmken butcher.
He stood silent for a minute looking down on the
prostrate soldier with a rather wry expression about
the mouth. The young man was asleep. Like the rest
of his companions, he had not even bothered to re-
move his haversack, but had dropped where he stood
on the dusty road-side and lay there motionless as a
dead man. One hand clutching a rifle was flung out
in a gesture of abandonment. His helmet had fallen
back and showed the close-cropped flaxen hair, the
young white forehead above the line of sunburn. The
straight eyebrows and fair down on the gaunt cheeks
shone golden in the sunlight. But even in sleep the
mouth was too tight-pressed — ^unyouthful, hard.
There was something marred and cruel in a face
otherwise poignantly young and fine which caused
the observer to mutter uncomfortably to himself and
finally, as though he could bear the unconscious self-
betrayal no more, to stir the sleeper with his foot.
The soldier grumbled, and, lifting himself on his
elbow, blinked up sullenly.
"Whafs the matter — can't you leave me alone?
Why, it's Herr Heilig — I'm sorry. I didn't see— one
looks so different."
"That's true, my son. And no doubt one is dif-
ferent. For there's a lot more in a uniform than
meets the eye."
220 TOWARDS MORNING
He laughed, not very joyously, and squatted down
at his companion's side, moving his arms gymnasti-
cally in an effort to restore the circulation. "By the
way, it's Gefreite Heilig now, if you don't want to
get into trouble. You didn't know I was a soldier,
"Well, nor did I. But now it looks as though I
were. I'm one of the new draft. You must have
been badly cut up there before Liittich."
"Fifty per cent. ^"
"Hm, they put up a big fight."
"They had to. They knew the/d get no quar-
Heilig nodded. The pouchy, unhealthy eyes twin-
"And quite right, too. The cheek of them — ^standing
up to us. Positively blasphemous. One can't be too
severe on that kind of thing, my son. How do you
like killing people, Helmut ?"
The boy smiled superiorly.
"Oh, I don't know. The first one made me feel a
bit queer. But I've got over that sort of silliness.
One's only got to think of the things the/ve done —
it's like killing vermin."
"Quite. You always were a bit of a fire-eater. Do
you remember that day in the Gymnasitun Hof when
you went for Kurt Kohler — ^head down? Looking
back on the episode, I can't help feeling you were a
bit blasphemous yourself— defying authority and
might like that. Well, you and Kohler are on the
same side now. One grows wiser with the years, eh,
His companion shot him a dull look of suspicion.
TOWARDS MORNING 221
*T[ don't know what you mean. Of course we're
all on the same side. We're Germans. Those who
aren't on our side are traitors."
Heilig nodded gravely.
"That's so. The moralists, my son, make a mis-
take by supposing that choice must necessarily lie
between right and wrong. It is not always quite so
easy as that — not for ordinary mortals like myself.
There are such things as conflicting moralities, Hel-
mut, conflicting duties, though perhaps you have never
*T know my duty."
'Tortunate young man! Well, I've spent many a
bad quarter of an hour trying to discover mine. And
even now I'm not sure "
Helmut fidgeted irritably.
"I tell you I don't understand all that talk. I don^t
want to. I want to rest. I don't suppose we've got
another five minutes."
"And it's been a gruelling march. Well, you're
young, and you haven't got a certain little something
the matter with your inside to add to the natural joys
of a ten hours' promenade. You see, it's not entirely
for my soldierly qualities that I have been re-made a
soldier. There are political Uriahs, my son, among
this Chosen People, and they all go to the firing-
Helmut appeared not to have heard. Throughout
he had been morosely inattentive. Now he broke out
with his concealed obsession.
"It's the water," he stammered thickly. '*We
emptied our water-bottles early, and since then we
haven't been allowed to refill them. And we've
passed rivers. They say we shan't get anything to
222 TOWARDS MORNING
drink till we get to the next village — that's ten miles
away; and the dust — ^it makes one mad. They say
they have poisoned everything." His blue, red-
rimmed eyes were turned on Heilig with a deadly
smiling ferocity. "When we get there — we'll make
them drink first — ^and if there's anything wrong — by
God — ^we'll wipe them off the earth — all of them !"
Heilig did not answer immediately. When he spdce
at last his tone was detached and careless.
"Yes, thirst is damnable. It reduces one to an an-
imal. And I'm no hero, God knows. A little while
back it got too much for me. I felt if I didn't get
something to drink I'd run amuck. So when we got
to a stream I pretended I'd hurt my foot and fell out.
Whilst I was bathing it and no one was looking I
had a drink. It was a good long drink, Helmut.
Well, perhaps the devil doesn't want me yet — or the
poison is a slow one ^"
He was silent, staring calmly in front of him. But
the young man's hand had tightened on the stock of
his rifle. Suddenly his face had grown red and swol-
"I tell you — ^I don't know what you're trying to
get at, Herr Heilig. I don't want to. I want to be
left alone. Just because you were decent to me when
I was a silly kid — ^you don't need to make claims now.
I remember — ^you weren't like the rest ; they said you
made fun of things — serious things. Now you dis-
obey orders and try to make out that our leaders tell
lies. You're the sort we've been warned against — the
sort that'll believe any one rather than their own peo-
ple. And I won't listen — I want to be left alone."
Heilig rose heavily to his feet.
"You're well within your right, Helmut. I ought
TOWARDS MORNING 223
not to have disturbed you. But you were so absurdly
like and unlike the little spit-fire who butted my pet
abomination in the tummy that I could not resist. It's
always a mistake to revive the past. Some people
have a disconcerting way of growing up. You have
grown up— quite a lot. But perhaps one day you
will grow young again." He clicked his heels together
and bowed very solemnly, though with twinkling eyes.
In his ill-fitting uniform he made a comic figure —
more than ever scare-crowish. "In that event, we
may have another talk." He added gaily — "providing
always that I am not dying invisibly of prussic-acid."
Helmut made a sullen, threatening movement, but
at that moment a whistle sounded. The inert bodies
strewn along the wayside staggered to their feet and
with a mocking affectation of terror, Gefreite Heilig
shambled back to his company.
The days when men and womeil ran out to wel-
come them were gone. They were not defenders and
heroes any more. They were the detested enemy.
And it was strange how bitter the change tasted. It
was a constant irritant, a poison, fevering the blood,
distorting the fancy. In the distance they would see
figures toiling in the fields — ^when they came nearer
the fields were empty.
Life fled before them as before the plague.
And they were childishly anxious to be cheered and
welcomed — ^loved even. They took refuge from this
incredible hatred in a jocose ferocity.
"Aha, they're frightened of us. Good! We will
give them something to be frightened about."
224 TOWARDS MORNING
Towards dusk at the end of that long, maddening
day Helmut saw a child's face peering at them
through the trees. It was a white mask of terror and
contempt and curiosity. And suddenly Helmut lifted
his rifle and took aim. He meant the threat in angry
fun — ^he wanted to obliterate that absurd contempt in
awe and terror. But the child did not move and his
finger tightened on the trigger.
A hand struck up the barrel of his rifle.
He laughed stupidly, like a man waking from a
dream, and went on.
The Feldwebel with five armed men at his heels
battered at the door and finally between them they
kicked it into splinters. In the whole town not a light
showed — ^not a soul moved. It might have been a
place of the dead. But they knew that behind every
door and shutter there were watching eyes and lis-
tening ears. That lurking, invisible hatred played
evilly on their nerves. They were good Germans, hon-
est and sober, adorned with all the galaxy of German
virtues, defending their sacred soil victoriously from
an outrageous wrong, and this treacherous people hid
from them — shrank from them.
The Feldwebel muttered between his teeth.
"They've good reason to hide, I'll swear. They^re
up to some devilment. Wait — ^we'U hunt the rats
They ran into the dark passage — ^Helmut at the
Under-Officer's side. At the far end was another
door and that too they burst open with their shoul-
TOWARDS MORNING 225
ders. It had not been locked, but their nerves de-
manded action — violence. Somehow they had to as-
sert themselves against that passive hostility.
The low narrow kitchen was lit by a single candle.
The flame threw a flickering brightness on the figure
of a woman seated at the table. She was very old —
so old that she seemed hardly human. Her body was
bent double. Her hands lying inert and indifferent on
the bare table were like the claws of a dead bird. But
her eyes lived. They shone fierily from out of their
sunken depths. They gave a fierce strength and
meaning to the cotmtless lines that fretted the
A girl stood close behind her — ^youth and age, de-
cay and beauty in almost brutal juxtaposition. And
there was a young man somewhere in the shadow.
Neither of the three moved or spoke. They looked at
the intruders with the same expression. It was a sort
of blankness — z, veil drawn over an inexpressible
The Feldwebel blustered.
*What do you mean by not opening the door —
what do you mean by all this tomfoolery? Do you
think we Germans are going to be kept waiting on
the door-steps like little dogs — by a dirty crew like
you? You want teaching, my friends, and by God
you'll have learnt something by the time I've finished
The girl shrugged her shoulders. Not a muscle of
her face had moved.
'We don't understand your language, Monsieur."
Nor did they understand hers. Even Helmut, with
his remnants from Gymnasium days, could make noth-
ing of the patois. But her tone needed no transla-
226 TOWARDS MORNING
tion. It was an insult — the cut of a whip across their
The Feldwebel moderated his tone. It was like
the self-restraint of a bull, who holds his ground for
a minute before charging.
'Took here — ^I don't want any of that infernal
chattering. You know what I mean well enough.
You haven't been trained and paid as spies for noth-
ing. We have been ten hours without food or rest
or drink and I warn you we're in no temper to be
played with. If you treat us fairly, you've nothing to
be afraid of; but if you play us any tricks, we'll have
no mercy on man, woman or child. I'm here to
quarter my men on you and see that they get food
and rest without being poisoned or having their throats
cut in their sleep, as has happened to some of our
brave fellows." He strode across the room and filled
a cup with water from the tap. "Now — ^to begin
with — you drink that up, Miitterchen, and then we'll
know where we are."
The man was not wholly ill-natured. Some of his
rage had begun to evaporate. He held the cup out
to the old woman with a bluff laugh. "Come on — it's
all right to drink our healths in cold water — ^it brings
bad luck, they say."
The old woman stared at him. Behind her mask a
genuine puzzlement and uncertainty began to show it-
self. It was as though she felt herself to be dealing
with an incomprehensible and incalculable lunatic
She shrank away from the proffered cup.
"No, no, I do not understand — ^what do you want ?"
The Feldwebel's face darkened.
"Come— drink if you want to prove your good
TOWARDS MORNING 227
^No— I tell you I do not understand."
'Ah — ^you don't like your own medicine, eh ? But
you shall drink it — we're running no risks here. If
you've monkeyed with the wells "
The five men came up close behind him. The sight
of water — the thought that it might be snatched from
them even now, incensed them to the point of frenzy.
Hardly knowing what he did or what he wanted,
Helmut caught the young girl by the arm. She tore
herself free and at the same moment the young man
came out of the shadow. The movement was enough.
Helmut laughed. He seized the girl in his arms and
*TLeave my sister alone !"
"Drink— drink— I tell you!"
There was no soimd for an instant but that of their
quick, hot breath. The girl and Helmut stared at
each other. He had laughed. It had been an answer
to a challenge — 3. good joke. But now he did not
laugh any more. The girl wiped her cheek with the
back of her hand. Her eyes narrowed. Then in an
uncontrollable gust of loathing she spat at him.
"Ah, you vixen — you "
He sprang at her. The young man slipped between
and they collided violently.
"Drink— drink "
The old woman, chattering in panic-stricken terror
of what was coming, dashed the cup aside.
In the same instant Helmut and the brother closed.
They fell back against the table. It overturned, fling-
ing them into a darkness which was lit by a vivid
flash. The hands at Helmut's throat let go their
hold. A body lurched against him — sighed and went
228 TOWARDS MORNING
Some one shouted.
"They've murdered me — it's a trap— a trap—"
The room seemed suddenly to fill with men. The
pitchy darkness writhed with them. They could not
escape from each other. They fought one another,
gasping and groaning in an anguish of terror.
"Treachery — ^treachery "
Helmut had made a rush for the door. But he
could not find it. His frantic hands slid over an in-
"They've shut us in — ^they'll murder us like rats."
Another shot fell. Suddenly they found the door.
It was wide open. They burst out into the passage —
banging against the walls — falling over each other —
"Treachery — ^treachery "
The light had been set to the powder cask. The
whole night was lit by the explosion. In answer men
came pouring out of the houses — out of the side
streets. They seemed to spring out of the very earth
— rushing hither and thither like a swarm of ants
whose hill has been suddenly crushed in. In the mar-
ket-place two streams coming from different direc-
tions collided and fell upon one another with a howl
The first few isolated shots had become a steady
How long the pandemonium lasted no one knew.
But suddenly a new power — a deliberate purpose —
took control. There was order then — order of a kind.
Helmut did not know whom he followed, whom he
obeyed. But there was no choice. He ran in and
out of the houses. He had a blurred vision of himself
chasing flying shadows along corridors, up steep nar-
TOWARDS MORNING 229
row stairs into black garrets— of stabbing — stabbing
sometimes into air, sometimes into soft, spongy things
that squealed and whimpered.
Like a terrier hunting rats in a big bam.
His arms ached. He laughed and shouted in an
hysterical lust of slaughter.
There was light enough now. One could see what
one was doing. The town blazed from encj to end.
The red flames leapt up into the night sky with the
joy of spirits released from hell. The streets were
a flood of fire on which floated little black specks of
And still Helmut ran on and on, staggering, reel-
ing, his foam-flecked mouth open in a shout that was
nothing but a strangled grunting.
The fire had almost burnt itself out Mournful
and grey and still the morning broke over the smoul-
dering ruins. The gay lilt of a bugle sounded
strangely — ^like a bird's song in some age-old place
A squadron of dragoons rode first. They clattered
and jingled down the cobbled street. The men glanced
at the broken walls and gaping doors, curious but
unmoved. A child's body tossed out into the middle
of the road troubled the horses, and one of the men
dismounted and carried it not untenderly back into
Then they rode on.
A company of infantry followed. Hauptmann von
Priitwitz marched at their head. He carried himself
2SO TOWARDS MORNING
well and on his face there was a happy serenity — ihe
look of a man who is set out on a high purpose.
He did not see the child huddled in the doorway.
He did not see, nor in any case would he have recog-
nised the soldier l)nng not far off. His eyes were
fixed straight ahead on his own vision.
The soldier did not hear them pass. He slept the
deep, sweet sleep of exhaustion in a little niche amidst
the ruins of a fallen house. His body was curled up
easily and naturally. The rifle had slipped from his
But there were stains on the field-grey uniform —
grotesque stains on the peaceful face half-hidden in
the curve of his arm.
It was as though whilst he slept an enemy had wil-
fully besmeared him.
In ten hours order and even a semblance of pros-
perity and gaiety had been conjured up. Beer shops
and canteens were established with amaidng prompti-
tude in any ruin that offered the smallest protection
from the threatening storm that already moaned and
muttered overhead. Gay-coloured lanterns illumi-
nated their inviting signs. On one of them a face-
tious host informed his guests that he intended to
open shortly on the Rue de Rivoli in more commodi-
ous and less draughty quarters. The officers of such
regiments as were resting before a further advance
had billeted themselves in the few intact buildings to
the west of the town and messed luxuriously in the
chief hotel which miraculously had escaped destruc-
In the streets, even after nightfall, there was a
constant movement. Troops poured through on their
way eastwards. The sound of their passing varied but
never wholly ceased. The clatter of horses, the crash
and rumble of guns, the rhythmic beat of infantry
were three phrases in a m(Hiotonous tune to which the
ear became accustomed and finally indifferent.
The pavement swarmed with activity. Officers of
all ranks hurried backwards and forwards between
their Casino and the commanding general's head-
quarters. The common soldiers who were off duty
232 TOWARDS MORNING
avoided that particular route where their contented
loitering was incessantly broken. They came to-
gether in the dim hovels where the acrid smell of
destruction still lingered. Their sober, hearty sing-
ing lent a warm sonority to the shallow bustle and
clatter of the street.
They sang of their homes, of the women they had
left behind — of the day when they should come back
The rare street lamps and red-eyed lanterns blinked
in the gusts of angry wind. An endless procession of
fantastic shadows fled light-footed along the walls.
It was as though Carnival were being held amidst the
ruins of a lost civilisation.
An undercurrent of life there was that had no part
in the feast. They were the bats and mice and scur-
rying things that had had their homes here genera-
tion after generation and had believed the firm brick
and mortar to be their very own. Now they skulked
tremblingly in their dark holes and burrows, peering
out with tragic resignation at the tinknown Power
which had ordained their end.
Leutnant Kohler came out of the Casino and
down the stone steps clattering his sword noisily after
him. In the street he lingered a minute or two, scowl-
ing and fingering his reddish little moustache with an
impatient tenderness. He was bored and out of tem-
per. For erne thing he considered he had been un-
fairly treated in the matter of quarters; for another
there was a rumour that the Yellow Dragoons were
TOWARDS MORNING 233
to be dismounted and sent into the front trenches.
On hearing which he had started up in fury, banging
''What the devil are they up to? Do they think
they can mix us cavalry with a lot of line rag and
An infantry officer who had been present had taken
umbrage and there had very nearly been a nasty scene
—even now in spite of his suave and tactful with-
drawal Leutnant Kohler could not be sure that there
would not be consequences and the possibility added
to the intensifying vibration of gun-fire filled his cup
of discontent to the brim.
He proceeded on his way slowly keeping to the
middle of the pavement returning salutes with that
air of combined accuracy and insolence which he had
made his own, ignoring such soldiery as sprang stiffly
out of his path, bowing deferentially to his superiors.
His small alert eyes shot penetrating glances into the
darkness. Though he had no clear idea as yet what
he was looking for nothing escaped him.
A soldier lurched out of a doorway. Leutnant
Kohler had almost passed but not quite enough either
for the regulations or his own exasperated temper.
He swung round, overtook the man at a stride and
struck him across the legs with his scabbard.
"What the hell do you mean by not saluting? Don't
you sec who I am, you drunken hog?"
The soldier had jerked up rigidly.
^*Verzeihung Herr Leutnant — I didn't see "
"Ah, you didn't see — ^you didn't see " He
stopped, overtaken by a sudden thought. "Here — ^un-
der the lamp with you!"
He was obeyed. They stood close to one another
234 TOWARDS MORNING
with the yellow, wavering light on their faces. Though
they gave no sign, picture after picture flashing up
out of the past held them silent, staring at each other.
And each knew what the other remembered.
Kohler's hand went back to his moustache. He was
in no hurry now. The joke was too good to be ^)oilt
by impatience. This was something to write home
about. He even began a mental description of the
shambling figure in the ill-fitting uniform — ^and he
had a vision of himself as he must appear to this de-
generate clod. Even in these days of field-grey a cav-
alry officer knew how to make the most of himself.
A poison that had rankled in his blood for years
was to be cured by an antidote — 2l very subtle, sweet-
He let the soldier stand there in front of him still
rigidly at attention whilst he examined him leisurely
from head to foot. Then his eyes passed on, till com-
ing to rest on the house opposite, they narrowed with
a new recollection. For a minute he genuinely forgot
his victim. He smiled to himself — ^a greedy animal
little smile. There was a pleasant tingling in his
nerves — ^a rush of hot blood to his face.
He knew now what he had been looking for.
The house had been fired but not wholly destroyed.
An attempt had been made to close and barricade the
splintered door. The empty windows were dark, and
yet somehow they suggested life — cowering, watch-
Leutnant Kohler moistened his lips.
"Your name, number and regiment," he demanded.
"Helmut Felde, 3078, D Company, Regiment
Konigin Louise, No. 45."
"Good. I shall know whom to report. In the
TOWARDS MORNING 235
meantime there's a girl living in that house. You will
go in and fetch her and bring her to my quarters —
over there— on the third floor. Immediately. Do you
It was very subtle. He complimented himself. His
coarse hearing sharpened to catch the full flavour of
the answer. It came at last — ^parrot-like, toneless —
**Jawohl, Herr Leutnant/^
"Good. And hurry up."
He sauntered on, spur-jingling, sword clattering.
He smiled to himself. The hand that still played me-
chanically with the reddish moustache had begun to
He knew his way this time, but now he went slowly,
with leaden feet. He did not think of the thing he
had come to do, his brain was empty. But an unut-
terable misery weighed upon him. He could have
killed himself. It did not occur to him once to dis-
The lock on the door at the end of the passage had
been broken the night before. He remembered how
he had broken it with a kick. The door swung open
slackly at his touch.
It was quite dark and in the room itself very still.
But all around him the house murmured like a thing
in pain. He could hear the wind sighing through its
broken walls. And when a gun, nearer than the rest,
boomed, it shuddered.
"Who is there?"
His own voice startled him — ^jericed him to a stand-
still. It seemed to come from some one else. It
236 TOWARDS MORNING
sounded strained and breathless and frightened. He
stood aghast for a moment. Then he remembered an
electric torch which he had taken from a dead Bel-
gian. He sent its white eye peering through the ob-
scurity. It lit up piece by piece the gashed, disfigured
room, the little bits of furniture, smashed to match-
wood, the heap of broken crockery — a, discoloured
crust — all covered with a thin yellow powder — as
though everything had happened years ago.
And it had been last night.
The light came to rest on the two figures on either
side of the fireplace. Helmjit felt that they also had
been there for a long time. They were like figures in
an old forgotten wax-work show — grey and colourless
and dusty, living with a strange, sinister life of their
The one was indeed almost unrecognisable. It
might have been a bundle of ragged clothes, heaped up
into a grotesque resemblance to a human body, and
to which some one in a freakish mood had attached
a mask. But the other stood straight and tall, her
hand on the mantelshelf, her eyes fixed on the black
and empty grate.
On the floor by the window was a long, inert
thing, covered by an old tablecloth, with a cross and
rosary upon its breast.
Helmut came further into the room. He tried to
move quietly, but the boards creaked under his tread.
''Frdulein — Mademoiselle/' he muttered, *'U faui
venir avec moi"
She turned towards him. Even with that full white
light upon her, her eyes were dead and lustreless. She
did not answer, and they stood for a long minute
looking at each other. Last night there had been
TOWARDS MORNING 237
hatred and challenge between them. Now there was
nothing but this bottomless misery. He tried to re-
peat his little French sentence — ^like a child repeating
a lesson that it does not understand — but an invisible
hand was at his throat, choking him. '' faut venir
— avec " But still she did not answer, and his
wretchedness was lit by an imperative need — ^to get
on with this — ^to have done with it — ^at all costs to
get away from this place of horror. '7/ faut — il
faut " he repeated desperately.
That was the keynote of it all — "il faut — il faut/'.
He blundered towards her. He was almost crying.
As he caught her by the arm the bundle huddled in
the chair was galvanised with a sudden horrible life.
For a second it stood upright, straight as in youth,
its mask flaming with hate — ^its fleshless arms lifted
in malediction — then broke, crumbling to nothing.
The girl shook off his hold. She did it easily, im-
patiently, as though he had been an importunate child.
Whatever power he had had was gone. She could
have escaped him. But instead she stood looking at
the dead woman and at the thing beneath the window.
And to Helmut it seemed that she held communion
*'Eh Men, Monsieur, je viens"
Her voice was calm and natural. She might have
been consenting to some commonplace request. They
went out together. On the steps, from force of habit,
she turned to close the door and then seeing the splin-
tered panels and hanging lock, sighed under her
breath. Whilst they crossed the road she kept close
to him, sheltering from the rain-sodden wind.
Her warm touch on his arm burnt him. He pushed
her roughly in front up the narrow stairs. If only
238 TOWARDS MORNING
she had struggled — if only she would spit at him so
that he could hate her! But she was so docile — so
gentle. On the third floor she stood aside for him to
He pushed the door open. He saw Kohler lounge
ing by the fire-place. The lieutenant had taken oflF
his military coat and wore a light grey Letewka, care-
lessly unbuttoned. He turned for an instant to throw
his cigar into the grate and the fire-light flooded his
full face with a brutal virility.
^'Ah, Mademoiselle, comme vous etes aimable" He
clicked his heels together, his hand upon his heart, his
little eyes gloating over her. "Et belle/' he addecL
Then he remembered Helmut and the false good-hu-
mour died out of his face, leaving a cruel, childish
triumph. "Get out — ^you!" he snapped. "Get out —
and thank God on your knees if I don't punish you!"
An impulse leapt up in Helmut — ^an insane impulse.
But then Kurt had always been able to do that. There
was something about him which could unseat the
If only he, Helmut, had passed that exam — if only
Kurt had not worn that uniform — if only the girl
protested — ^if Kurt had even touched her at that mo-
But she stood there quiet and indifferent, her hand
holding her shawl crossed upon her bosom. It was
as though nothing of all this concerned her. And yet
she must have known of that sudden stir — for she
looked at Helmut for a moment and her eyes were
full of an aloof, contemptuous pity.
And perhaps Kohler knew too. Perhaps he too had
had a glimpse of what was passing behind that mask
TOWARDS MORNING 239
of disciplined stolidity. Perhaps the one fine instinct
in him of self-preservation warned him.
He advanced threateningly. But there was fear in
his face and in his voice.
"Do you hear — get out !"
The old law re-asserted itself. The flame flickered
and went out.
"Zu Befehl, Herr Leutnant!"
The door closed. He stood alone on the dark land-
ing. The howl of the wind, the mysterious murmur
and rustle of unseen things, the dull persistent boom
of the guns did not reach his hearing. He only heard
the silence in that room behind him — ^that obscene,
He could see them standing there, confronting one
another, the man and the woman, and the man's face.
Like a tiger crouching.
And then panic overwhelmed him. He rushed reck-
lessly, blindly down the stairs — out into the storm —
on and on — the Horror hot at his heels.
An hour later, Heilig met him zig-zagging through
the torrential darkness and drunk beyond reasoning.
Fortunately it was already late and the tempest
had swept the streets clear so that he had encountered
no one of any dignity on his progress. The wind and
the swirl of rain muffled his shouts to an unintelligible
murmur. He seemed to have forgotten his distrust of
the older man. He clung to Heilig desperately though
he persisted on his own course.
"Must find it," he explained earnestly. "Must — ?
240 TOWARDS MORNING
that's German for 'il fauf — looked it up in a dic-
tionary — fine word — ^very useful — ^must find it — my
bayonet — ^lost my bayonet — old man — what do they
do to you for that, eh ? Shoot you — ^penal servitude.
Besides, I want it — want to take it home. I've killed
a deuced few with it — dozens — ^lost count after twenty
— ^all sorts, my dear boy — ^men, women and kids —
when I woke up in the morning I was up to my eyes
in it — swimming in it" — ^he lurched and hiccoughed
helplessly — "and now I've lost the damned thing —
and I tell you I want to take it home. I want to
show it to my mother. She'll be so proud. She'll
hang it on the wall. I promised I'd do something big
for the Fatherland — ^and I have — ^haven't I? She'll
tie a ticket to it — 'With this bayonet my son Helmut
killed dozens of his country's enemies.' What a
damned nuisance losing count like that."
Heilig held him upright with difficulty.
"Well, never mind about your bayonet anyhow —
you'll not find it again on a night like this. Better
let me get you back to your quarters before there's
"I tell you — I know where I lost it," Helmut per-
sisted. "I had it when I was crossing the road with
that pretty vixen — Kurt sent me for her, you know —
always did get everything he wanted, my dear cousin
— ^and I nearly made a fool of myself — ^think of that
— ^making a fool of yourself over a bitch that doesn't
care a damn — ^these Belgians — dirty dogs — all of
Heilig struggled with him in vain. It was evident
that dnmk as he was, he had a perfectly clear pur-
pose and Heilig had either to go with him or leave
him to his fate. He chose the former course.
TOWARDS MORNING 241
^'Very well, if you know where you lost it, then for
Heaven's sake let's get there as soon as possible,'* he
agreed ruefully. "I have no doubt you will get us
into quod anyhow/'
But Helmut was not to be hurried. He had his
tale to tell, and he shouted it to the night, over and
over again, alternating between a Sadistic gloating, a
pure patriotism, and an appalled despair. Half an
hour more had elapsed before they found themselves
at the bottom of Kohler's staircase.
"It was up here," Helmut declared, "somewhere up
He had lowered his voice. For a moment he
seemed almost sober, as though after the hurricane
outside the quiet and darkness frightened him. He
produced his torch and they began a stumbling, noisy
To Heilig the house appeared to be only another
deserted ruin. Nothing suggested to him that there
was any living thing near them. He had on the con-
trary an extraordinary consciousness of death. The
closed doors which they passed on their way up hid
some terrible secret.
Then at a turn of the staircase they saw a light
pouring out overhead.
It stopped them — it held them for a moment silent
and motionless. It was more than its brutal unex-
pectedness — ^there was something strange and signifi-
cant about it Amidst all the noise and bluster of the
storm it was so quiet.
Then suddenly Helmut began to go on again slowly
and deliberately as though drawn by an irresistible
The room was almost as he had last seen it. Only
242 TOWARDS MORNING
the fire had burnt very low and the man and the wo-
man no longer faced each other. The man lay full
length in the middle of the floor — ^his arms out-
stretched in the attitude of crucifixion — ^and the woman
stood well away from him — ^looking at him.
It was Helmut who moved first. He lurched across
the room. He paid no attention to Leutnant Kohler
now. His whole mind seemed concentrated on the one
thing. He picked it up— gaping — stupefied
"My bayonet '* he babbled — "My bayonet "
Heilig touched the body with an experienced hand
"Dead," he said in French. He looked up at the
woman and she nodded a grave assent.
"Yes, I killed him."
''When was this ?"
"Two hours ago— when that unhappy boy brought
me here. I killed him at once — ^I have been waiting
ever since "
"For whom ?"
"For some one to come and take me. You will have
to kill me now. I meant to kill myself " For
the first time a touch of emotion coloured her voice.
"I was not brave enough."
"Who knows that you have been here?"
"No one but you two."
Heilig glanced at Helmut. He had dropped down
on a chair, his rusty bayonet across his knees, his
face hidden in his shaking hands. They could hear
him crying. "He is so young," the girl said sud-
denly — ^"so young ^"
Heilig did not answer her. He crossed the room
and turned down the lamp till it sputtered and went
TOWARDS MORNING 243
out. There was now no light but the faint glow that
came from the dying fire. They saw each other as
"Go 1" he said gently. "Go quickly, Made-
And now there was sheer terror in her voice.
"What do you mean ? What are you going to do to
me ? You have killed every one— every one — ^you can
kill me — ^isn't that enough ?"
"We are going to do nothing to you, Mademoiselle.
We two are the only people who could speak — ^and we
shall say nothing. Justice has been done for once.
Go quickly — ^whilst we can save you "
"I do not wish to be sared. I have nothing left to
live for "
"You are young. There*s always hope — spare us
another crime " He took her by the arm and led
her to the door "Go down by yourself. At the bot-
tom wait and listen. If you hear no one passing — slip
out. Here is money — ^I can do no more for you "
"No '' she said. "Not thit.'*
"Very well. God be with you."
He stood at the head of the stairs listening till her
footsteps had died amidst the mutter of the wind.
Then he went back.
"Come, Helmut — ^we've got to get out of this!"
He half -led, half -carried him. Helmut was almost
sober now but dazed and broken with the misery of
returning consciousness. Heilig closed the door softly
behind them. He gave a mirthless little chuckle.
"And by God, Helmutchen, if you had tried to stop
her rd have killed you with your precious bay-
onet," he said.
244 TOWARDS MORNING
The next morning a prodamaticxi, signed by the
Stadt G>mmandant, was posted upon the walls of the
A German officer had been found murdered.
The fifteen persons held by the military authorities
as hostages for the good behaviour of their fellow
citizens would accordingly be shot at day-break.
Appended were the names and descriptions of the
"In cold blood 1" he repeated " — ^in cold
He shook his head with a movement of distress
and incredulity as though he could hardly believe his
own words. He was a plump, un-soldierly little
man — ^an incurable civilian masquerading in a uni-
form — ^and his small soft hands which he held out to
the fire shook pitifully. "Yes, I have killed people,"
he went on in a high-pitched voice — ^"and God knows
I was not brought up to kill people. In real life I am
Kaufmann Bielefelde. I have a little haberdashery
shop. In all my life I have never done an3rthing more
violent than sell gloves and stockings and buttons to
ladies. Yet now I kill people. It is my duty appar-
ently. God and our Kaiser wish it and so I obey. And
it is not difficult. Either one doesn't know what one
is doing or — or one gets angry. A comrade falls and
one sees red and one hits out. That's easy — ^that's all
right. But in cold blood **
He stopped with a choking sound like a sob and
there was a long silence. The five men huddled closer
to the wretched fire. Three nights before the place
had been a home. And even now it seemed to be
clinging to its old state, denying with middle-class
stolidity and heroism, the possibility that these things
could be. The elderly kind-faced woman whose en-
larged photograph still hung in the place of honour
246 TOWARDS MORNING
over the mantelpiece denied it smilingly. She had
an air of friendly tolerance and self-assurance as
though she were saying : "It's all right. It's all your
excited imagination. Things like this can't happen
And there was a table by the window with a work-
box and a child's sock peering out from under the
lid Somehow the sock made the shattered gaping
window and the rain which came trickling through the
ceiling where the charred plaster had fallen seem ab-
surd and unreal. Every moment a child's laughter
must ring out — Madame, with her market-basket on
her arm, would appear, smiling and steadfast, and the
whole nightmare vanish before her.
The Kaufmann Bielefelde's companions did not
answer him. They remained dull and apathetic as
though their struggle against the dank invading mis-
ery had broken them. They had not even troubled to
remove their overcoats and the room was full of steam
and the sickly odour of drying clothes. The afore-
time haberdasher did not seem to notice their indiffer-
ence. He went on talking — in spite of himself, wres-
tling with some horror in his own brain.
"At first, you understand, I didn't think an3rthing
about it. After all one doesn't think about orders.
One just does as one's told and so there's an end of
it. It wasn't till I saw them — standing there — ^the fif-
teen of them — ^against the wall — facing the sunlight —
for the last time — you understand — and then know-
ing I had to shoot one of them — ^like that — in cold
blood — just as though they had been one of those dum-
mies we used to pot at the range — why then — I just
felt my heart turn to water — I felt I couldn't — that it
couldn't be done. There was an old man just opposite —
TOWARDS MORNING 247
he was so like my grandad — ^there are grey beards like
that all over the world, aren't there? — we aren't the
only people who have got nice old fellows like that, eh ?
And he looked at me — and I could see just how puz-
zled he was — as though he couldn't understand what
it was all about — and I didn't know either — ^but I had
that damned rifle in my hands — ^and then the lieutenant
gave an order — and I took aim — ^yes — I took aim
cool as you please — I couldn't believe it — I, Gottfried
Bielefelde taking aim at that nice old fellow — ^but I
did — I couldn't help myself — if it had been my old
grandad I couldn't have helped myself And
then it happened " He stopped again and the four
men stirred uneasily and looked up at him as though
something in his voice had at last broken through their
insensibility. He was staring straight ahead with
round, incredulous eyes
'Well— what happened ?"
"I'm telling you — ^there was a soldier next me — the
last man in the line — a queer harum-scarum sort of
fellow — ^not very respectable, I would say — and when
the order was given he didn't move— I could see him
out of the comer of my eyes — he just stood there —
and the lieutenaQt roared and came at him like a bull.
But he didn't stir an eyelid. He looked the lieutenant
right in the face. 'I'll have no hand in this mur-
der ' he shouted so that we could all hear. 'These
people are innocent. In any case Leutnant Kohler
was killed justly. I'll have no hand in this ' And
then he took his rifle — ^he must have been mad with
rage for he's a bit of a weakling ordinarily — ^and
snapped it as though it had been a match and threw it
at the lieutenant's feet — 'Now you put me up with
them/ he said, 'and I'll die in good company *
248 TOWARDS MORNING
"Think of that ! To an officer I The lieutenant han-
self hardly believed his ears. He was like a pricked
balloon. I expected him to knock the fellow down — or
run him through — ^but he didn't — he didn't seem to
know what to do— and at last he just put him under
arrest and sent him off And all the time, you
understand, that poor old gentleman had been watch-
ing — ^not knowing a bit what it all meant — ^not even
that one of us had stuck up for him — and — ^and I had
stood there — ^with my finger on the trigger — aiming
at him "
Suddenly the little haberdasher put his hands to his
face as though he could not bear their eyes — ^as though
he were trying to hide from himself. And then they
saw a big tear creep out from between his fingers.
Veit Thomas laughed contemptuously.
''Ach was I Call yourself a soldier, do you?'*
He shot up as though he had been struck. He shook
his fists. His round red face was all twisted with
grief. It was almost comical. But the laughter died
suddenly in Veit Thomas' throat
"No— I don't — I'm not a soldier — ^that's just it
I'm a shopkeeper. I wasn't meant for this. And don't
you jeer any of you. If you jeer I'll kill you — you've
got no right — ^you haven't seen what I've seen-^you
haven't got what I've got on the soul. Look here —
when the lieutenant gave the order again — we were all
to bits — all of us — I didn't know what I was doing — I
was all dazed — stupid — shaking at the knees. Half of
me wouldn't fire — and half of me had to— and that
half of me pulled the trigger — ^and — ^and made a mess
of it — ^made a mess of it, you understand. I can see
him standing there now — ^the old man — ^wiping the
blood off his cheek — looking at me — ^and there were
TOWARDS MORNING 249
others like that — ^it was like a shambles — ^and the lieu-
tenant lost his head and screamed — ^it would have gone
on for ever— only the Feldwebel went round with his
revolver and made an end — ^an end— oh, my God, an
They looked away from him. The fire had almost
given up its feeble struggle but they still held their
stiff blue hands out to it for warmth. Their eyes were
focussed beyond the grey wraith of smoke. And each
man pretended to himself that he did not hear Gott-
fried Bielefelde crying.
At last one of them sat up beating his knees with
"It's no use,*' he said. "It's no use making a fuss.
Of course it's horrible. But that's war — war means
killing people. We shall be killed sooner or later.
Meantime it's our business to kill them — ^as many as
we can. The next time we come to a town they'll be
more careful. Better fifteen of them than one of us,
Veit Thomas blinked his hard little eyes.
"Any one who pities an enemy of the Fatherland is
a traitor," he said dogmatically.
Helmut got up roughly, overturning his stool. Sud-
denly he realised how cold he was. The sound of that
dull terrible sobbing exasperated him. He began to
tramp up and down the room, stamping his feet and
beating himself with his arms. He shouted at Biele-
"Shut up— shut up — can't you ?"
It was growing dusk. With every minute the cold
and misery deepened about them. Helmut lifted the
comer of the waterproof sheet which flapped across
the window. Through the rushing veil of wind and
2SO TOWARDS MORNING
rain he could just see the ghostly outlines of the ruins
across the street. The street itself was washed empty.
"Who was this man — ^this soldier?" he burst out
And wondered why he had asked.
Bielefelde lifted his poor wet face.
"I don't know — ^he was new — one of the last draft —
Heilig I think he called himself "
"What's going to happen ?"
Bielefelde laughed shrilly.
"What do you suppose ? Do you think they'll gfivc
him an Iron Cross? He'll not see another sunset, poor
"Well, it wouldn't upset me to have a pot at him, the
traitor!'* Veit Thomas declared.
''Ach, stop that "
'Why should I? What's the matter with you,
Felde? Gone mad or what? Friend of yours,
"Stop it, I say."
"Oh, well — I don't want to quarrel."
Helmut continued to pace up and down. He had
hoped Veit Thomas would take up the challenge. He
wanted to irritate these four motionless figures hud-
dled over the dead fire — he wanted to quarrel with
them. If only a row would start — ^with them — ^with
anybody. When one was killing and fighting one was
warm — ^almost happy.
It was this dank hopeless wretchedness — ^this cold
And suddenly, with an oath, he tore open the door
and ran out headlong.
TOWARDS MORNING 251
The man sighed and stretched himseU contentedly.
From where he lay on the straw bed in the comer of
the cell he could see the door and the little bit of a
window whose cross bars traced a faint crucifix against
With the minutes the crucifix grew blacker — ^more
He sighed again — this time with a whimsical re-
gret — and sat up, looking about him intently as though
he were trying not to let a single shadow escape un-
noticed. Then, seeing that he was not alone, he ex-
claimed irately under his breath and finally laughed.
There was a soldier seated on the bench by the door.
He held a rifle between his knees. His head was
thrown back against the wall, his face turned towards
the gathering light in a pale immobility.
The condemned man threw a crust of bread at him.
"Helmut Felde, I've been dreaming about you. Am
I still dreaming or are you an obstinate fancy or are
Helmut moved but did not look at him.
"I'm real enough."
"Good. But you weren't here last night-
"Your guard has been changed. It's quite simple."
"Oh — quite. A wonderful coincidence. But why
didn't you wake me up ?"
"You — ^you seemed to be so— so fast asleep."
"Why, so I was. What did you expect me to be?
Writhing with remorse and terror? My dear boy, if
you knew anything about criminals you would know
that remorse is the one ailment we don't suffer from.
252 TOWARDS MORNING
And as to terror — why should one spoil one's last hours
for something so commonplace as death? Not that
I really want to die. Just now I felt a positive regret
to think that I shouldn't see the sun again. The sun
and I were great friends. Still — I wish you had woken
me up. We could have had a chat — that chat I had
always promised myself."
"I didn't come here for that."
Heilig chuckled. He stretched himself out on the
straw with his hands beneath his head in a pose of lazy
"I bet you didn't. Duty, eh?"
A spark of anger— of sharp resentment flashed up
in the sullen voice.
"No — it wasn't. I came — ^because I wanted to— I
bribed your guard to let me take his turn."
"You— what ?"
"Hush, for God's sake — do you want the lot of them
on top of us ?"
Heilig made a gesture of apology.
"Of course I don't. It was idiotic of me to bellow
like that. But you shouldn't spring amazing things on
me. You came because you wanted to! Why did
you want to? You weren't a bit pleased with me the
last time we met You don't want to talk to me — ^you
don't like the look of me apparently. Why did you
"I don't know— I had to "
"That's interesting. I wonder " He smiled, his
head a little on one side "I wonder if it was be-
cause I'm a sort of souvenir — a, dead and withered
posy from other days — ^before you were a fine soldier
and had done mighty and glorious deeds — ^when you
were a little boy — ^an absurd little boy — ^who butted in-
TOWARDS MORNING 253
to the tummies of notorious tyrants and loved a mon-
grel dog and a rag doll."
"Oh, be quiet, can't you? Don't laugh. You're
always laughing — ^making fun of things." He
turned his gaunt white face for the first time towards
the man curled up negligently in the straw. "It will
be day-break in a few minutes," he stammered — "and
they're coming to shoot you — ^because you are a bad
German — a disloyal soldier — ^and you laugh."
His voice broke.
Heilig did not answer immediately. He sat up
again, with his arms clasped about his knees, and
through the silver dusk their eyes met and held. When
he spoke at last his voice had changed. Its whimsical
gaiety had become a profound sadness.
"I wasn't laughing, Helmut. Though, for myself,
I could laugh easily enough. I am a sick man and my
spirit cannot bear the burden of these days. So at the
bottom I am glad to go — ^to be out of it — to rest. All
the same, I wouldn't have laughed — I couldn't laugh —
because you are unhappy."
Helmut made a harsh movement of surprise and
"Yes, even although you are a good German and
a loyal soldier and are not going to die in a few min-
utes — ^unhappy. After all, what else but unhappiness
brought you here? Why did you risk pimishment to
come ? You don't approve of me, Helmut You look
almost as though you hated me "
"You disobeyed orders," was the bitter interrup-
tion. "And you didn't even save those people. You
made it worse for them, a hundred times. If you knew
what happened "
2S4 TOWARDS MORNING
"I can guess. I didn't mean to save them. I knew
I couldn't. In reality there was no need. It wasn't
for them I did it '*
"For whom then !"
Heilig shook his head.
"That's what I want to tell you; it's not easy, and
I have so little time." He was abruptly silent
The distance had stirred like the leaves of a tree in a
soft breeze. The sound of men's voices, the thud of
marching feet wove themselves together into a faint
thrilling music. Heilig leant forward a little, his e3res
narrowed as though they were fixed on something far
off. "Germany — Germany " He whispered.
"Oh, God — ^they say dying men have visions — and
there's the Neckar wandering in and out among the
hills, and there are the little villages on the river
banks, and the tall, grave fir-trees, the smell of the
warm summer night, and the sweet wine, and a wo-
man by my side — ^and the singing :
^^Alt Heidelberg du feine,
Du stadt am Neckar reich —
Oh, the dear, dear earth!"
His head dropped suddenly between his hands.
Helmut got up. He lurched heavily, clumsily to
the window and listened
"It's the 105th," he muttered. "We go forward to-
His face, lifted to the light, had the still, wrapt look
of a somnambulist.
The voices grew louder — faded again. It was so
quiet they could hear the soft drip of the rain upon the
TOWARDS MORNING 255
Heilig shook himself. He passed his hands over his
eyes like a man brushing away the lingering colours of
"Well, others will come after us," he said gently.
"Others will slip down stream at midnight — others will
hold hands tmder the stars— others will watch the
moon rise over the castle. They will pick up happiness
where mine has broken off. We must be glad of that
much immortality. Helmut "
"What is it?"
"I want you to listen a minute. It won't be easy.
Helmut laughed roughly.
"I can't very well help myself, can I ?'
"Oh, yes— you could. You could hit me over the
mouth. You would even gain favour with the gods
for doing so——"
•Well— I shan't!"
"I want you to remember what I am going to say.
You see, I have always had a soft place in my heart,
for you, Helmutchen— ever since you thrashed Koh-
ler, though he was twice as strong. You filled me with
admiration, you fair-haired, bullet-headed, round-eyed
baby, because you'd done something that I, poor devil
of a big strong man, had never dared to do. I loved
you — ^positively I used to have a sneaking, shameful
longing to pick you up in my arms and hug you. And
because I had not loved many human beings in my life
it broke my heart to see how they were maiming you,
twisting you out of shape, defacing your miraculous
little soul. I never forgot you. You were a part of
my life. And when I saw you lying there by the road-
side, asleep, I felt that a crime had been done — that
someone dear to me had been mturdered. And I knew
288 TOWARDS MORNING
that through his under-estimation of her he had pat
himself at her mercy.
"Come," he said good-humouredly. ''You aren*:
much of a patriot, are you? After all — ^I'm not an
enemy. Fm open to reason. Only you've got to trust
me — ^and prove that you trust me. If I swear to yoc
on my word of honour as a German soldier that I
will return it to you at once — ^without touching you—
will you give me that revolver?"
His voice was quiet and reasonable. Yet again be
did not expect her to obey. It had been a mere ruse
to gain time. She looked at him for a moment, her
eyes veiled and inscrutable, and then laid the mreapon
quietly on the table between them.
And now there was contempt in his laughter.
He took the old-fashioned fire-arm and emptied oat
the cartridge into his hand. He made her a deep,
"I keep my word, Mademoiselle."
Her face betrayed neither fear nor surprise nor re-
sentment. But there was something sorrowful in the
gesture with which she took the revolver back from
"They taught you that," she said, almost to herself.
He ignored her. There was nothing more to fear
now. He could bide his time. He sat down at the
table and motioned her curtly to take the place oppo-
site him. She obeyed, and yet there was an unbroken
strength in her docility as though behind it she held
a weapon. She motioned aside the share of food
which he pushed towards hen
"I have already breakfasted."
He did not believe her, but he was past caring.
He ate wolfishly, not speaking, hardly aware of her
TOWARDS MORNING 289
until the last crumb had vanished. There was no hur-
ry. In this narrow, lonely world he had become
"It's months since I sat at a decent table/' he de-
clared at last, pushing back his chair with a sigh of
content. "And I don't know when I last spoke to a
woman in my own tongue. I've forgotten."
"Your mother?" she suggested.
He nodded thoughtfully.
"Yes — ^perhaps it was my mother. That was on my
last leave — a year ago. She will be surprised to hear
how near I've been."
^Tfou will go and see her?"
"No. I am not on leave." He waited for her to
speak — ^to question him. He wanted to throw the
truth into her quiet face. But she was silent. Her
eyes were lowered and he felt rather than saw that
they were distended as though with a secret, painful
thought. "What are you staring at?" he asked
He looked down at them. They lay there clenched
on the table in a gesture of arrogant content — ^strcxig
and scarred and brutal. He had an odd feeling of
surprise, as though they did not belong to him — as
though he saw them for the first time.
"Well, what's the matter?"
"I was thinking of what they have done."
He stared at her, but she seemed sunk in her own
vision, and suddenly he sprang up, pushing his chair
"They have done their duty," he muttered. "That's
all that matters."
"What was their duty?" she asked.
290 TOWARDS MORNING
"To obey!" Her lip curled in irrepressible scorn.
"To do everything they are told— even wicked things T
"A soldier who obeys does nothing wicked."
She gave a low exclamation.
"I would never be a soldier."
"You are a woman. Yet even you have your duty.
Even you will have to submit"
He went over to the window and stood looking oat
sombrely. It had stopped snowing, but the sky hung
grey and surcharged over the trees. Again he waited
for her to cry out — to protest — ^to rouse the demon
that would release him. But she was quite quiet.
"I'm going out to see if I can find my things," he
said at last. "You will wait here."
Then she moved. She stood between him and the
"You're coming back?"
"Even though I ask you to go away — ^and leave me
— in peace?"
He leant forward and caught her by the arm. He
drew her close to him so that he cotdd feel her breath
on his cheek.
"Even if I didn't want to come back, I should have
to. Do you understand?"
They remained moticMiless, staring into each other's
eyes. She did not falter. He had a strange feeling
that in that duel she was drawing his strength from
him — ^that the very marrow of his bones was melting
tmder her touch.
Violently, almost in terror, he flung her from him
and went out, crashing the door to behind him.
It was dusk when he scrambled back up the ice-
bank, his haversack slung aver his shoulder and a
dead hare dangling from the muzzle of his rifle. He
gave an exclamation of relief. He had learnt to fear
night in the forest, and in the purple vapour which
drifted over the mountains it would have been easy to
miss the Althof altogether. The snow lay feet thick
on the deep thatched roof and reached up to the level
of the window ledges so that house and forest were
fused in an unbroken whiteness.
But the windows were alight. They shone out like
warm, friendly eyes, and the long, slender icicles that
hung from the eaves twinkled in their light like
He almost believed that the eyes were watching for
"A witch's cottage !" he thought grimly.
To-night the door was not barred against him. He
entered freely. The old wolf-hound rose and limped
to meet him, sniffing at his outstretched hand. A
candle burnt on the table and the stove threw a red
glow over the room, catching bright glances from the
polished coppers. It shone into her face as she bent
over her work.
He had entered blustering and storming. He had
expected opposition and hatred — had prepared to meet
292 TOWARDS MORNING
them — ^rejoiced in them. But now the quiet and
warmth laid gentle, restraining hands on him. It was
as though he had blundered roughly into a room where
children lay asleep.
"You — ^you look so peaceful," he muttered.
She had glanced up quickly, and again there had
been a look on her face which he could not read. It
was as though something had leapt up in her — some-
thing joyful — ^and then, seeing him, had crept back,
hiding from him.
"Peace is all that is left now," she said. "You will
have to share our nothing. I have no food for either
"It doesn't matter." He was still brooding over
what he had seen. "I've eaten my iron rations. I
don't want anything."
"But you said you had had no food for three
He shrugged his shoulders.
"I tell you — I don't want anything. I'm not hun-
gry." He closed the door against the bitter twilight,
but he did not come further into the room. "My
things are all wet and dirty," he said. "I remember —
women like to keep things clean. "
"I don't mind. I am accustomed. You see — my
brother used to come home " She broke off,
flinching. "Please give me your coat and I will hang
it up before the fire in your room. It is only wet
There is no mud up here in the moimtains."
"In the trenches there is mud, though. We used to
wallow in it like pigs in a trough." He gave an awk-
ward laugh. He had a strange desire to bring that
look back into her face. "You see — I've been think-
ing of to-morrow's supper. When I found my rifle
TOWARDS MORNING 293
safe and sound I went down to the meadows and hid
myself behind a tree. And sure enough presently this
fat fellow popped out. He seemed to know that you
were short of powder, and he didn't think much of me.
He didn't know I was the crack sniper in the regiment"
He stopped, conscious of the sudden whiteness of her
face. "Why do you mind like that?" he burst out
She took the stiff, furry body from him and passed
her hand over it with a lingering tenderness.
"I couldn't help thinking — ^seeing you — waiting for
some man ^
"War is war," he answered largely, "and there are
things in life bigger than life."
"Yes— I know."
"And love and pity."
"One's Fatherland is above everything."
"It can't be above God."
He laughed at her.
"You live in the mountains," he said. "You don't
He put his hands against the stove and watched her
spread out his great-coat and stack his rifle in the
comer. All her movements were so quiet — so sure.
She was part of the peace that was stealing into his
blood. He fought against it. He tried to think evilly
of her and of their companionship — to look at her
with hot eyes. She was beautiful. She was given into
his hands. The forest walled them off from the
world. He had only to will — ^to desire.
But his thoughts slipped from his control. He pic-
tured some other man — ^a faceless shadow — who would
come home each night after the day's toil, whom she
294 TOWARDS MORNING
would meet, not in fear but in tender welcome, who
would sit with her by the fire and speak of the day s
happenings— of the sleeping children — ^who would
drowse away in the knowledge of other days to come
as peaceful and untroubled — who would grow old
He flung himself down impatiently on the bench.
"What are you doing?" he burst out "Why don't
"Wait, I am looking for something." She came
to him, and her fearlessness tore the thought out of
his mind like an evil weapon. "It is my brother's old
pipe," she said gently. "He carved it himself and
was so proud of it. He smoked it the last night. But
I think he would like you to have it — sl comrade.
There is a little tobacco left in the jar."
"Thank you," he mumbled. He took the pipe from
her, and it was his hand that shook. "What are you
making there?" he asked.
For she had gone back to her place by the candle-
light and had picked up her knitting.
"I am making warm things for the people in the
village — for the children. But there are not many
children left. They are dying of the cold and hun-
"Other children must come," he said significantly.
"They must be less sorrowful."
"They will have a great inheritance. Great glory.
We shall have won it with our blood for them. "
She looked up.
"They must be proud of us."
He did not answer. He stuffed the bowl of his
pipe and for a while there was no sound but the soft
clicking of her needles. Her hands came and went
TOWARDS MORNING 295
ceaselessly. They were beautiful hands — ^big and ca-
pable. Her head was bent and the fire glow, bright-
ening as the night crept up about them, filled her eyes
with tired shadows.
"You gave me all the food you had/' he said sud-
She smiled a little.
"That is nothing. My poor old fowls may lay again
to-morrow. Now-a-days one must often go without'*
"But there is always a full basket at the village
"The little children !"
He muttered impatiently.
"Folly! Each man for himself."
She put her hands down for a minute. She looked
very young and wise.
"You say that because you've forgotten."
"What have I forgotten?"
"What you knew when you were quite little."
"I never knew much that was of any good to me."
She went on working, and he sat forward, his brows
knitted, his chin resting in his hand. He wanted to
shout at her "This has got to end — ^this can't go on."
He goaded himself. Suspicions like snakes writhed in
his mind. What was behind her calm? She was
fighting him — he knew that — but with what weapons?
Or didn't she care ? Was she merely a loose woman
whom his imagination transfigured ? Would she laugh
when he caught her in his arms ? Or was it the recog-
nition of the high duty in whose name he came to
He hated her in that moment — loathed her strangely
296 TOWARDS MORNING
"It's so quiet here," he muttered. "The quiet makes
everything unreal— <Mie can't get away from it. It
seemed to follow me all day in the forest **
"Silence is terrible when one is not at peace with
God,** she answered.
"How you talk of God! Like a child! Do 3^011
really believe in heaven and angels singing and saints
in white robes ?**
"I believe in God."
"Well — ^you wouldn't if you were me — if you'd seen
the things I've seea You might believe in the devil."
"I do believe in the deviL Only I know God wins
in the end."
"Women's talk!" was his repeated sneer.
"Perhaps women remember things that men for-
get," she said wistfully.
Again she silenced hinu She troubled him as
though she had indeed reached down into the deep
places of his mind and touched a forgotten memory.
He got up and moved restlessly about the room. At
last he came close to her and stood over her.
"Look at me!" he commanded. She obeyed, lifting
her eyes straight to his. They were bright with sud-
den tears and that which he had meant to say died on
his lips. "Listen," he said. "Last night — ^you told
me — you tried to make me lose my way — ^you wanted
me to die out there — ^and then afterwards you took
me in — you fed me."
"You were so helpless."
"Yes — ^but you've been kind to me since then. Even
now you speak to me as if I were a friend — ^and when
I came in to-night you looked for a minute — almost
"I had been dreaming," she answered quietly. "7
TOWARDS MORNING 297
heard your step outside on the snow. It seemed to
me that he was coming back — as he did that last time
— ^at dusk. And now — in that uniform — when you
sit there smoking — in his old place — it is so easy to
His clenched hands relaxed. He turned heavily
"It was I who promised to write to you — ^after he
died," he said. "And I forgot."
She was not working now. Her hands lay idle in
"I didn't hear — ^not for weeks and weeks. I used
to go down into the valley and watch for the postman,
but he never came. "
You — you loved your brother so much?"
We lived together here ever since my grandpeople
died. The Althof belonged to us. We had always
been great friends. I had only had one other play-
fellow in all my life."
"He told me about you — the last night — before the
attack. He was one of the new draft — ^and I only
saw his face the next morning — ^afterwards. He had
not fired a shot. He looked quite happy. "
"I knew that he was happy."
He turned on her with a sudden bitter anger.
"Why? Because he had killed no one? Oh, yes.
He told me what you had said. And yet you would
have killed me."
"Because I thought you were an enemy — coming to
take what was mine — I who had never hurt you. And
if any one came against my home — my country — I
would defend it — I would fight them — kill them — ^but
I would not go out against them — I would not take
what was theirs."
298 TOWARDS MORNING
"Wild, ignorant talk! We attack only to defend"
Her hands were tightly interlocked.
"Is that true? I know — ^we're very ignoran: up
here; we don't hear much — only what they tell us
But Hans said that they were a weak people. They
knew it meant death. And we had promised to de-
He made a violent gesture.
"They stood in our way — they had to go. It was
for Germany — for our country. It was justified. The
weak must yield to the strong."
"That isn't true— that isn't true !"
Again that distant thrill of memory.
"Be silent! If you dared say that where I have
come from you would be shot. You don't love your
"Perhaps I don't — I don't know. I love this house
— the forests — the dear people — I'd die for them. It
wouldn't be loving them if I sinned for them. "
And all the time he had been coming nearer to her.
He had been lashing his fury against her, conjuring
up bestial pictures with which to overwhelm the en-
emy within himself. But she did not falter. There
was something earnest and childlike in her bearing —
as though her eyes that met his inflamed scrutiny saw
nothing but the virtue in him. He hesitated, and in
that brief pause the silence regsuned its mastery. It
encompassed him like a sweet drowsy mist It seemed
to well up out of his own heart.
He turned away, hiding his face from her.
"It's getting late," she said, with a tired sigh.
From the shadow he watched her take the heav\'
Bible from its niche. She sat facing him, with the
light between them and turned over the musty leaves
TOWARDS MORNING 299
reverently. And he had a vision of generations of her
people sitting in the same place, reading from the
same book. He saw them, tiie grim, kindly men and
women, holding with strong hands to their iron and
Her lips moved as she read. She was spelling out
the words earnestly and painfully, like a child. The
light shone in her face and painted a dim gold about
her head. He thought of a church which he and his
comrades had once ravaged. From the broken altar
a grave and beautiful Madonna had looked down upon
The old revolver lay unheeded upon the table. He
re-loaded it and pushed it across to her, his eyes low-
"Take it. I am not afraid."
"Neither am I afraid,'* she answered.
She carried the candle over to the window and
looked out. "The storm is coming up again," she
said. "One can't see a single star. It would be ter-
rible if one didn't know that the morning would come
He did not answer. His breath came quick and
shallow. Bu* he could see no trace of trouble in her.
Her bosom rose and fell peacefully. He had a feeling
that he himself was unreal — only a dark, malevolent
shadow. He followed her to the foot of the stairs.
He was reeling, his fists clenched, his face flushed
and distorted — like a drunkard — ^like a man who stag-
gers under a crushing burden.
She turned and looked down at him.
"Good-night!" he muttered.
He followed her with his eyes till she had van-
300 TOWARDS MORNING
ished overhead into the darkness. There was now do
light in the room but the bright glow from the sto?e.
For a moment he stood motionless and irresolute.
Then, acting on a sudden impulse, he carried the open
Bible to the firelight and read what she had read.
"Blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mer-
cy. .. . Blessed are the pure in heart, for they slall
see God. ..."
The old wolf-hound limped to the foot of the stain
and lay there — ^watching him.
The fire still burned steadily, but it seemed to faiin
that the room was growing colder and darker. The
night that had been rising up the mountain sides crept
under the doors and through the crannies. It ad-
vanced stealthily, resistlessly. He felt as though he
stood on a little sandy island in the midst of a great
sea and that the sand was being washed away from
under his feet.
The shadows that lined the walls had blackened —
sharpened in outline. He watched them distrustfully.
He knew that they hated him, just as the dog whose
unblinking eyes followed his every movement hated
him. Each winter's night for a hundred years they
had been there. It was their dwelling-place. They
were the familiar spirits who had waited on birth and
death — who had known the men and women who had
once lived among them.
They had seen the first — they would see the last.
And he was an interloper, an enemy threj«tening
that which they guarded.
TOWARDS MORNING 301
He perceived these things more clearly as the si-
lence deepened. It was as though secret faculties had
been bom in him and now stood shivering on the
threshold. The dense wrappings of strength and brute
courage which had shielded him in months of horror
had been stript from him.
Here they availed him nothing.
He listened for some sound overhead. But none
came. And it was not the silence of sleep. It was
poised above him — like a wave before it breaks.
He got up and began to move about. He had need
to reassure himself of his own reality. His world
was melting in mist and shadow. Only she remained
definite — a clear light on the dim flood which was ris-
ing about him— carrying him further and further
from the things he knew.
He went over to the window. He could see the
snow as it hurried past in silent, countless legions.
The dull reflection from the fire lit up the stem of a
gaunt tempest-riven fir-tree. It stood out there in the
cold and darkness like a forlorn, mis-shapen ghost —
He tried to lay fast hold of his life — ^to re-picture
his comrades, the daily filth and misery, the desperate
attacks, the bitter hand-to-hand struggles, the frantic
stabbing and slashing, man against man — ^the orgies
which had broken the murderous monotony of their
But it was all unreal. It slipped away from him.
He had dreamed these things. He was still dream-
ing. The reality awaited somewhere beyond his sleep
— ^beyond the night.
And he could not wake. He tried, and suffered in-
302 TOWARDS MORNING
"It's the cold and hunger," he told himself.
He began to look for food, knowing that there was
none. He opened every chest and cupboard, mcmEf
silently, fearful of his own shadow— of the sound of
his own breath. And in the store-room behind the
IVohnstube he stumbled against something round and
He struck a light. For a moment he was incredo-
lous. Then he began to tremble like a man who in
deadly agony has found an opiate to his hand. The
light flickered and went out But he had no need of
light. Exerting his whole strength, he carried tbc
barrel into the sitting-room and set it on the table
He fetched a bowl from the dresser and filled it. He
did not even wait to taste, but drank in great thirsty
gulps. The crude native wine rushed through his
blood in a flood of fire.
He left the tap running and the wine spilled over
the floor. It ran about in and out of the shadows like
a live thing seeking escape. The wolf-hound sniffed
at it and drew back, growling.
At first he drank only in the desperate need to re-
affirm himself — ^to regain his world. There was tor-
ture in his thirst. But little by little the things that
had evaded him crystallised — ^grew real. The earth
steadied under his feet. He knew what he was and
whence he came. And he began to drink for the joy
of drinking. He laughed out louA He lifted his glass
to the shadows and taunted them.
Now everything was clear and simple. He was
alone in this house with this woman. She had been
given into his hands. The law commanded — justified
TOWARDS MORNING 303
He stretched his arms above his head like a giant
waking from sleep.
The old wolf-hound rose up, bristling, showing his
yellow fangs. They watched each other, knowing that
it was to the death.
Then the man feinted cunningly. And the next in-
stant his great hands met round the dog's throat, the
thumbs pressed down through the fur to the windpipe,
stifling that one yelp of agony and warning.
The stairs murmured under his tread. They, too,
warned her. Underneath and all about him the spir-
its of the place were alert, rustling and scurrying in
dread, impotent horror. He lurched, groping blindly,
his hands sliding over the walls. The darkness was
suffocating, almost solid. He felt it pressing thickly
against his face, in black swathes^ holding him back.
It had chasmsr— death-holes.
Even now he tried to move quietly, as though he
were afraid of rousing a power stronger than himself.
He had learnt to move quietly. At night, out there
in No Man's Land, life had depended on stealth.
And up here in this choking obscurity it was more
The thin golden strip at his feet checked him, but
only for an instant Suddenly he flung himself against
the door, bursting it open.
She had waited for him. She had known that he
would come. She knew his purpose. She stood op-
posite him with her back to the wall like some noble
forest thing that has been hunted down and now turns^
304 TOWARDS MORNING
asking no mercy, to meet the last fight. Her hands
were hidden behind her, her eyes, dark and alert, never
left his face.
"It's no good," he warned her; "there's no one to
help you here. I don't care what weapon you're hid-
ing — it won't save you. Do you think I've come back
from that to be frightened by any living thing ?"
"You will not touch me," she answered, with sub-
The candle stood on the table between them. It
had almost burnt itself out. Its tiny golden tongue
waved in the draught and threw quiet, moving shadows
on their faces. But to the man the room was full of
the redness of his brain. He closed the door swiftly
behind him, shutting out the invisible witnesses that
had followed at his heels up the dark stairs.
"You thought you'd beaten me," he stammered
thickly. "You thought you'd fool me — that I'd be
helpless because you're good and believe in God.
Listen to me. Other women have believed in God and
It hasn't helped them. They've been good, and we
haven't had any pity. We're masters — and what we
do is law. No one has a right to call us devils; I
know what you've been trying to do, but it won't
serve you. Because I don't believe in God. I believe
in the good German fist. I'm a soldier, and a sol-
dier does what he's told. I've had my orders. I've
never disobeyed yet ; I'm not going to begin now. I'm
not going to be shot because you're good." He made
a violent gesture. "You're a traitress. You're try-
ing to make me a traitor — ^you're trying to make me
think things I don't want to think — to feel like a devil,
when I'm in the right — ^when I'm doing my duty. But
you shouldn't have forgotten that wine. It put me
TOWARDS MORNING 305
straight — ^made me see dear — ^to know what I want —
and by God " He lurched heavily towards her.
"Give me that knife or whatever you've got there.
It's no good. You belong to me. It's the law. If
your own brother were here now he couldn't stand
She was in his arms. His kisses had been rained
savagely upon her eyes and lips. Now suddenly, as
though he had been struck by lightning, he let her go.
She slipped away from him against th^ wall, her head
thrown back, her eyes blind with tears.
"Oh, Helmut! Helmut 1"
He stared about him stupidly. He had been asleep
and some one had called to him. In a minute he would
wake up to a warm summer's afternoon in the pine
forest — and something brown and leaping and laugh-
ing would come to meet him through the trees.
The cry had been so ringing clear — so joyous.
"Why — ^why do you call me that?" he muttered.
"You don't know — I never told you."
She held out what she had hidden.
*T kept them all these years."
He took her pitiful weapons from her — ^the yellow,
withered posy, the crumpled sheet of paper, torn out
of a school-book, and covered with a sprawling boy-
"My Lenchen is like the running brook-
His arms dropped to his side, broken of their
strength. Suddenly his blood was cold and quiet.
The fever and fury of desire were gone like a
306 TOWARDS MORNING
This was the reality — from a long way off he had
come to find it — not glory nor power nor duty, but this
simple white room and Lenchen — ^brown Lenchen, the
playfellow, the loving comrade who had remembered
— ^and himself — ^monstrous, unholy.
He kept on turning the flowers over and over in
his hand. The gay coloured ribbon of the Quinta had
faded. He remembered how he had cut it off his cap,
how he had hidden the posy in his blouse so that his
mother shouldn't know what he was doing. And
that long, funny poem ! He had lain awake for hours
trying to think of a rhyme for "brook."
That last evening together — ^the heart-break of that
He had forgotten. But he had never loved any one
It was quite still between them. He laid the posy
gently on the table. He did not look at her. He
lumbered blindly to the door and along the dim pas-
sage to the stairs. They were silent now. He stum-
bled over the dead body of the old wolf-hound. His
feet slipped in the spilled wine.
He did not know that she followed him. He tore
the bolts back. The snow was already on his face
when he heard her calling. He looked back and saw
her standing against the firelight.
"Hehnut— ccMne back— come back — ^it's death out
He shook his head.
"I must go away/' he said. "I must go away."
He said it over and over again with a dull insist-
ence. Out there the darkness might hide him— even
TOWARDS MORNING 307
But she had dropped down by the table. He heard
her sob. And suddenly he ran back and knelt down,
pressing his face against her hands, crying in an awful
abandonment of drunken grief.
The next morning they cleared the snow away from
the door and dug a hole in the frozen soil. And there
they buried the old wolf-hound.
"His spirit will take care of me when you are gone,'
The man turned away so that she should not see bis
And all that day it snowed and soon the shaOov
grave was covered over and a white sea enclosed them.
They scarcely spoke. They moved softly as though
some one dearly loved were asleep after much sorrow.
But it was not a terrible silence any more. It was
the silence of the woods before the first flowers lift
their heads above the winter's deajh — before the first
song of the birds — ^the hush of re-birth.
And when it was dark they sat by the red glow of
the fire and listened to the footsteps of that which
was coming to them through the night.
And on the third evening she looked up at him ^s
he stood silently beside her.
"How big you've grown, Helmut!"
"How pretty you are, Lenchen!"
They smiled at each other sadly.
"So you do remember that?"
TOWARDS MORNING 309
"I remember everything. Now it seems to me that
it is the only real thing that has ever happened to me.
I can remember every detail — as though it were yes-
terday — ^that last evening together — and the things
you said to comfort me — such brave things. You were
ready to defy all the dragons and ogres in the world —
and you were so sure that I should be able to defy
them. But you didn't know what the dragons were
"But I did put up a fight When they teased and
bullied me at the crammers I used to say to myself:
*It doesn't matter. I must be good and kind.' And I
made a funny calendar of my own — ^nine squares di-
vided into twelve little squares. And every month I
scratched off one of the little squares. When the last
big square had gone it would be time for me to come
back to you."
"And then you forgot."
"Not all at once — never altogether. I cried out at
night for you — ^months and months. But then other
things came. They seemed to know that you were
their enemy, for they crowded you out. And I wasn't
strong enough to keep you. I had to go their way or
your way — ^and you weren't there. I couldn't cry any
more — so I laughed. I thought we had been two chil-
dren making foolish, impossible plans."
"It must have seemed like that," she whispered.
"But it was not real laughter," he said earnestly,
"and I never really forgot. You see how I've remem-
bered. And often you've tried to come out of your
hiding-place in my heart. And sometimes I listened
— ^less and less, I know, as time went on. But now
you've come back altogether."
3IO TOWARDS MORNING
She leant forward, her chin cupped in her hands,
gazing into the firelight.
"I never forgot at all. I don't know why it was—
but you meant so much to me. You were such 2
strange, sad little boy. Somehow you changed every-
thing. You made me think about things. I began to
understand the wicked people that the Pastor used to
talk about. I had always thought that they weren't
real— or had lived a long, long time ago. But after
you had told me of poor Karl I knew that they were
still there and that they were very cunning, terrible
"Oh, Lenchen, is that aU I did?"
She shook her head.
"I never played with any other little boy after you
left I didn't want to. And I thought it would hurt
you if you knew. You see, I did know somehow how
hard it would be for you, and I wanted you to fed
that I was always there — ready and waiting — I thought
perhaps it would help."
"Did you think I would come back?"
"And when I came "
"I recognised you at once— even that first night in
the storm. I just felt that it was you. When you
were beating at the door I said to myself: 'That's
Helmut wanting to come in.' And I couldn't fail you
— ^whatever it cost." She drew a deep, noiseless breath.
"Afterwards I was surer still. Everything had
changed — except your eyes — and they were just the
same — so blue — and — ^and troubled-looking!"
"But you sat there — all night — watching me — ^like
She shook her head.
TOWARDS MORNING 311
"No, not like an enemy — ^you don't know what was
in my heart — ^you were some one I had to protect — I
couldn't have let you do anything wrong — ^anything
that would have made you sorry all your life."
"You — ^you would have shot me, Lenchen?" he
"Oh, Helmut, I don't know — ^I don't know. I just
prayed to God — ^that I might be strong."
"Why didn't you speak?"
"I had to wait. The time hadn't come. You were
too far off. But I felt that you would come nearer
and nearer — ^and then — ^then I should only have to say
He sat down on the bench beside her, hiding his
"But, Lenchen, there have been other people in your
life — some one else. I've been thinking of him all
these two days. There must be some one whom you
are waiting for, who will come back, and love you
and make you happy."
"There has never been any one but you."
He took her two hands between his. He bent over
them and kissed them.
"I love you, Lenchen."
She smiled tremulously.
"I am so glad, Helmut Because I love you, too.
And we've been engaged people such a long, long
They looked at each other, but the tears blinded
"My Lenchen — ^my own sweetheart." He had come
out of the striving and tumult on to a quiet height
and before him was all his life to come. He could
trace the peaceful path on which they would go to-
312 TOWARDS MORNING
g€ther. The hideous union that was to have becz
forced upon them would become blessed and boij.
Almost he could have said to her in that moment of
thanksgiving: "I believe in God/'
But he looked down and saw the hands that held
hers. He spread them out before him in the firelight
And he saw that they were red and filthy and that the
filth ^read up — ^up to his breast — to his throat — he
could taste the loathsomeness of it upon his lips. And
suddenly with a cry of anguish he stood up. "Ctti.
Lenchen — Lenchen, what have I done?"
The night wore on heavily and there was no sound
in the room but that of the man's voice. He leant
forward, his chin resting in his hand, and looked into
the red glow of the fire as though it were there that
he saw the things that he had done. And she fol-
lowed his eyes, seeing with him. Her face was pak
and grave, but she made no sign of hurt. Her hands
were clasped in her lap in a gesture of unconscious
And for a while he forgot her. It was to himself
he spoke. It was to the tribunal of his own soul —
horror-stricken, quivering and revolting — ^that he told
the story of his manhood. He picked out each filthy
blood-stained thing and held it up and saw it for the
first time for what it was. All tj^at had been splendid
and heroic — ^all that seemed to become a man — putri-
fied under that final scrutiny. He tore the gold trap-
pings of kingship and glory from it and the body crum-
bled to a heap of dust
TOWARDS MORNING 313
"And we believed that it was right — ^as though God
Himself had told us/' he said. "The kindliest and
best of us— we did these things — as we gave our lives
— ^without question. There was only one sin left in
the world — the sin against Germany."
"As though our forests would want these things of
us, *' she said simply.
At the end he told her of Heilig — of that last watch
together — ^and of how he had struck the dying man
across the mouth.
"That was the saddest thing of all, Helmut'*
He lifted his eyes to hers. He read in her face the
tragic knowledge of that which in this hour had be-
come clear to him. Their love remained. But the
gulf between them was too wide. Not all the toil and
passion of their lives could build the bridge across.
And yet surely there was some way — some other
"I have come back, Lenchen, but I have lost you."
They had taught him to believe only in the hard,
tangible realities — ^realities that a man's hands could
make and break. It was strange to sit close at her side
with the gods whom he had obeyed giving him right
and power, with his own youth and love beating in
his blood and to know that in a little while he would
So that after all there were things in a man's soul
stronger than armies — stronger even than his own
He looked at her hands, lying there so quietly. He
had a htunble longing to touch them — to hold them as
he had done in that brief glimpse of happiness an hour
ago. But he could not He was like a man in a dark
314 TOWARDS MORNING
and filthy cell, gazing between the bars of his prfsos
at the distant fields.
"Lenchen — it would have been better to have left
me out there/*
She started, and as though she had divined his
thought she took his hands and gently kissed them
each in turn. And he could have cried with the pain
"Oh, no, Helmut; it isn't that — ^you mustn't think-
that. Only it's so sad — they've spoilt all our lives —
those wicked people."
"I am one of them, Lenchen."
She shook her head.
"I knew that you were not — ^you were such a kind,
loving little boy."
"But I am not that little boy any more."
That was the inexorable truth. He was not the
same. He could never be the same again. Not all
his tears and remorse could give him back what they
had taken from him. They could mend his body —
they could not give him healing for the deeper sick-
He sat with his face hidden for a while, thinking of
his crippled, tainted youth.
But was there no way — ^no way in the world by
which a man could retrace his steps?
And strangely, at that moment, he thought of the
sun that even now was rising splendidly to their
"Everjnvhere there are people sitting by the fire —
like we are," she said, under her breath, "breaking
"What can we do, Lenchen?"
"We're so weak."
TOWARDS MORNING 315
"It would be so easy just to give way — ^to take what
happiness we can get. We're just two people among
millions — ^what can we do?"
She had grown tense and eager with the thought
that came to her.
"It would have been easy just to have shot down
those poor people — Helmut — he was just one man."
For an instant his whole being rose up in revolt.
And it was no good. He didn't save them."
'He knew that. But he did something — something
bigger than that I don't know — it's all so dark and
difficult, but I think — soon — I shall imderstand."
"He told me," Helmut whispered. "He told me
just before he died. He seemed to think that all over
our country there were people like himself, lonely,
helpless people, who were doing what he did, giving
their lives, their happiness, to redeem the others —
the others who would come after, so that they should
be happy — and all the things that we have done for-
gotten and f orpven. He told me to remember what
he said, if ever the time came " He stopped,
blinded for the moment by the sudden light. "He said
— 'even as you may give your life, Helmutchen.' "
For a long time they were quite silent. They sat
close to one another, their hands tightly interlocked —
staring ahead like people who are being drawn more
and more swiftly towards the cataract. But when he
spoke again it was as though in the last minutes of
that dread journey they had talked together, exchang-
ing each thought — ^answering each question.
"So I shall go back," he said, "and I shall tell them
that what they bade me do was a foul and evil thing.
That I have disobeyed them — ^and that I shall never
obey their law again."
3i6 TOWARDS MORNING
"And then— they will kill you, Helmut.''
He did not answer — and suddenly they clung to one
another in despair and revolt — ^that last supreme re-
volt of their bodies against the inexorable spiriL
"Oh, Helmut, Helmut — ^and we don't know — we
don't know — perhaps this is the only life wc have."
"My Lenchen — my own darling. "
"Helmut, dcMi't go— don't leave me."
"Oh, Lenchen, it must be soon— quite soon. We
couldn't bear it — ^my little love."
They cried together pitifully. But gradually the
storm passed. They had gone under in the darkness
and tumult, but now they were being borne swiftly on
the deep flood. She crept closer into his arms.
"Let us be quite happy now — don't let us think of
anything — ^but just that we are sitting here together
by the fire — in our own little home. Let's pretend that
you came back — and that it's been like this for years
and years, and that now we are old, old people. And
that even if to-morrow we are parted we shall have
had our happiness — and that it cannot be for very
He kissed her brown hair softly.
"And we'll talk about the old days — ^up there — on
the Ludwigshohe. "
"And the Sandtorte— do you remember ?"
"And the old witch's cottage."
"You said it was the Forsthaus.'
"I was such a silly little boy.
Their voices dropped to whispers. And sometimes
there were long silences.
They did not notice that the firelight had grown
dim. They did not see the deeper shadows rise up Ukc
watchers whose task is done and creep away.
TOWARDS MORNING 317
It was not snowing any more. Overhead the grey
mists were breaking. One could see pale touches of
blue amidst their floating draperies, and far away on
the peaks of the distant hills the snow sparkled in the
first light of morning.
"The dear, dear earth/' she whispered.
"That is what Heilig said — 'The dear, dear earth.' "
He took her in his arms and for the last time they
kissed each other. For a long minute they remained
locked together — ^silent and motionless.
Then he went on, ploughing strongly through the
deep snow, valleywards.
The old Amtschreiber came out of the quiet room,
closing the door softly behind him. He saw old Anna
standing with clasped hands by the window, and he
blinked his eyes trying to make sure that she was
really so old — ^that all those years had really passed.
"You must go home," he said. "You must be very
"It doesn't matter, Herr Amtschreiber. One can
"Yes — that's true — one can rest now."
He put his hands against the majolica stove, warm-
ing them. He felt very cold — ^as though he could
never be warm again.
"Good-night, Herr Amtschreiber."
He did not move until he heard her heavy, listless
footsteps pass down the passage and the subdued click
of the latch. Then he shambled over to the table,
3i8 TOWARDS MORNING
littered with papers and old letters^ and sat down vntb
his head between his hands.
For a long time he sat there — so still that he seemed
to fade into the greyness and shadow of the room.
Before him, under his eyes, was the open page of that
day's Tagblatt filled with black-bordered death-notices
of the fallen. And one among them was larger,
prouder than the rest :
"Hauptmann Heinrich von Prutwitz.
"Knight of the Iron Cross — ^second class,
"Who died the hero's death for Kaiser and
"On the 15th of December, 1916.'*
And underneath was a long list of his people.
The Herr Amtschreiber turned over the disordered
pile of letters with shaking fingers. Some of them
were yellow edged and covered with a stiff school-
boy's writing. Others were more recent — bolder and
briefer. The last was written on a sheet of official
note-paper by some stranger's hand.
"Helmut Felde — ^at dawn — for disobedience in the
face of the enemy."
Gradually night came into the room, and to the Herr
Amtschreiber that weariness which muffles even the
worst sorrows of the very old.
And so he fell asleep— suddenly and peacefully.
And in his sleep he dreamed that he heard an infant